Shiploader funding to improve Tasmanian freight rail network

The replacement of the Port of Burnie shiploader has taken the next step, with federal funding confirmed and tender documents to be released to market this month.

The new $40 million shiploader will enable more freight to be moved by rail, particularly bulk minerals, said TasRail CEO Steven Dietrich.

“It will be integrated into our Bulk Minerals Export Facility at the Burnie Port, which provides undercover storage for around 130,000 tonnes of ores and concentrates from West Coast mines. It will effectively double the tonnes able to be loaded per hour,’ he said.

“This is a proven and reliable ship loading system and, as part of a seamless integrated supply chain, it will add significant productivity and reliability to our operations and benefit the mining industry also.”

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said the replacement of the 50-year-old shiploader was part of wider investments in freight rail in Tasmania.

“This project is part of the Tasmanian Freight Rail Revitalisation program and will enable the service of more types of ships, increasing ability to load higher-capacity vessels while doubling the current bulk material loading capacity to approximately 2,000 tonnes per hour.”

Local member Gavin Pearce said that the efficiencies of a new shiploader would be felt down the line.

“This will boost production for miners, allow TasRail to handle more ore concentrates and there will be less queuing time,” he said.

“It will also mean cost savings on port charges, more mineral concentrates will pass through the port, and miners will boost their production and have certainty in the logistics chain.”

The upgrade to the Port of Burnie shiploader is part of the third tranche of upgrades to the Tasmanian freight network. Other projects include resleepering, track replacement, upgraded culverts, drainage and formation work, as well as improvements to level crossings. These projects are currently in the planning phase.

Tasmanian Shadow Minister for Infrastructure Shane Broad said that while Labor welcomed funding for the shiploader, it must not come at the expense of other safety upgrades. Labor argues that the $40m for the shiploader has come out of funding earmarked for upgrades to the rail network.

“The government needs to find the money elsewhere or risk network deterioration, derailments and accidents in the future,” said Broad.

Freight networks ensuring safe operations continue

Freight operators and network owners around Australia continue to serve businesses and communities, and Tasmania is no exception.

CEO of government-owned TasRail, Steven Dietrich, reminded Tasmanians this morning that the state’s freight rail owner and operator is continuing to provide rail-based freight services across the 611 kilometres of operational network.

In the statement, Dietrich noted that like other operators, hygiene and cleaning practices have been stepped up in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19).

“To keep our teams healthy we have been working hard to implement best-practice hygiene and physical distancing measures at our sites around the state, protecting essential frontline staff, and coordinating working from home and split-shift operations where possible.”

As federal and state transport ministers have reaffirmed that rail freight is an essential service, Dietrich reminded the community that trains will be continuing to operate and that people should remain safe around the rail corridor, which includes over 500 level crossings around the state.

“Working together we will keep the critical freight services operating and continue to provide Tasmanians with the goods they require access to at this time.”

In a written statement, CEO and managing director of the Australian Rail Track Corporation John Fullerton also noted that rail freight would continue, and the network owner would be providing a safe network and progressing major projects in NSW, Victoria, and South Australia, as well as the Inland Rail project.

“While it is positive the freight and logistics industry and the works supporting these sectors have been recognised as essential services, we also recognise that in our continued operations we have a significant responsibility to the ongoing health and safety of our people as well as the communities in which we operate. This includes a range of preventative actions to minimise risk, adjustments to existing work practices and to actively plan for the health and people effects of COVID-19,” wrote Fullerton.

Many ARTC staff are working from home and those on-site are following guidance and social distancing and hygiene. Additionally, travel is being limited, and work is being carried out by locally based employees and contractors.

Fullerton highlighted that demand for predictable and reliable freight deliveries is critical.

“The ARTC team remains committed to ensuring that the rail network is managed and maintained safely, and the major projects the economy needs are delivered successfully. That remains our focus and commitment to our customers, stakeholders and the community,’ wrote Fullerton.

Stephen Cantwell named TasRail chair

Samantha Hogg will leave TasRail as chair and Stephen Cantwell will take over from 1 January 2020.

“I would like to take the opportunity to thank outgoing chair, Samantha Hogg, for her dedication and contribution to TasRail over the past four and a half years,” minister for infrastructure and transport Michael Ferguson said Wednesday.

“Ms Hogg has been instrumental in providing oversight of the financial governance and risk management practices at TasRail, helping to set it up for future success.”

Hogg oversaw the delivery of Tranche One of the Freight Rail Revitalisation Program (FRRP), during her term as the TasRail chair. She is non-executive director at Infrastructure Australia, Australian Renewable Energy Agency, Tasmanian Irrigation, MaxiTRANS and Hydro Tasmania.

Incoming chair Cantwell is Cantwell is non-executive director at Port of Brisbane, Queensland Rail and TasRail. He has operational experience in freight rail, heavy industry, mining and ports.

“With the delivery of tranches Two and Three of the FRRP, a new shiploader to build and new customer projects all occurring in the next four years, Stephen’s operational and commercial know-how will be a great asset to TasRail,” Ferguson said.