Changes to rail access regime welcomed by industry

Western Australian rail operators and infrastructure managers have positively responded to the WA government’s announced changes to the state’s Rail Access Regime.

The changes include: changes to the asset valuation method and a requirement for published standing offers; improved protection from unfair discrimination; better acknowledgement of foundation customers; increases in transparency; and finding efficiencies in the regulatory process by adding timeframes, information provision obligations, and standardising requirements.

The reforms will be implemented in changes to the Railways (Access) Code 2000. Ongoing consultation will continue with stakeholders as the process moves to the next stages.

WA Treasurer Ben Wyatt said that the changes would benefit groups near non-metropolitan railways.

“The McGowan Government has agreed to a series of important reforms to the State’s Rail Access Regime, which will make attaining access to railways easier and quicker, supporting regional communities.”

The state government has been conducting consultations for the past two years and aims to make the Regime more effective as an alternative to commercial negotiations. A spokesperson for CBH Group told Rail Express that the company appreciated the government’s commitment to reform.

“CBH welcomes the announcement by the Treasurer that the Western Australian Government has approved significant changes to the WA Rail Access Regime to make it more effective, speed up access negotiations, and ensure railway access arrangements are fair for all parties.”

Reviews of the scheme in 2011 and 2015 by the Economic Regulation Authority found that the Regime was not an effective alternative to private negotiations. Unlike access regimes in other states, parties in WA are allowed to negotiate access outside of the access code.

Arc Infrastructure, the manager and operator of freight rail lines in south western WA, similarly appreciated the approach taken by the WA government.

“ARC have been engaged through the entire review to date,” an Arc Infrastructure spokesperson said to Rail Express.

“It’s been a very consultative approach with industry led by Treasury.”

The reforms aim to ensure that more WA businesses can use the freight network owned by private companies in a cost-effective and timely manner, while encouraging private investment in privately-owned railways. The Access Regime covers the freight rail network in southern WA owned by Arc Infrastructure, the urban network operated by the Public Transport Authority, and two iron ore lines in the Pilbara.

“These reforms will encourage greater use of the rail network and support the efficient movement of freight across the State to support exports, regional businesses and jobs,” said Wyatt.

Arc Infrastructure elaborated on the effect of these changes on their network.

“Our understanding of the proposed changes will mean railway owner will publish (amongst other things) performance indicators and standing offers for rail access,” said the Arc Infrastructure spokesperson.

The Arc Infrastructure spokesperson said that the new regime will provide more transparency for users of the WA freight network.

The CBH spokesperson remained positive about finalising the reforms.

“We look forward to continuing to engage with the Government as these important proposed changes are drafted.”

Sydney opening caps big year for Alstom

Alstom Australia’s managing director Mark Coxon sat down with Rail Express after a whirlwind 2019, with big wins for Alstom across multiple states and sectors.

The New Year’s break is a welcome opportunity for rest and relaxation for many professionals. But for Mark Coxon and his team at Alstom Australia, the 2019/20 break was perhaps the most well-earned in recent memory.

Eleven days before Christmas, Sydney opened quite a large present. The first revenue services for the Sydney CBD and South East Light Rail line between Circular Quay and Randwick represented the culmination of four years of construction and delivery.

Around 160,000 passengers rode the new line in its first two days, and they rode on some of the 60 Citadis X05 light rail vehicles delivered by Alstom.

By January 8, the line had already handled its first million passengers.

Alstom has also delivered the project’s power supply equipment (including two kilometres of APS wire-free ground power supply), energy recovery substations, signalling, communications, and depot equipment for the project, and is now underway on a 19-year maintenance contract.

“We’re very happy with this project,” Coxon, Alstom’s managing director in Australia and New Zealand, told Rail Express shortly after the Sydney opening.

“The Alstom scope has been on time, and we’ve had new technologies brought for the first time to Australia – another sign of confidence in the Alstom delivery capability.”

Light rail vehicles are rolling down George Street for the first time in more than 60 years. Unlike the original system, it is free of overhead wires for two kilometres of its route thanks to Alstom’s ground-based APS power supply.

APS, originally Alimentation Par le Sol – “fed through the ground” – but now anglicised to Aesthetic Power Supply, uses modern technology to safely feed power through the base of the LRV via a third rail between the tracks.

Coxon notes APS is a new technology in Australia, but also that the Citadis X05 is the latest version of Alstom’s light rail vehicle range.

“On top of that, the reverse cycle power- optimised substations were in our scope,” Coxon continues. “So that’s a number of new technologies we’ve brought to this iconic project, and it was great to see trams going down George Street – and great to be on that first tram.

While Alstom’s share of the project was successful, Coxon is well aware of the disruptions caused throughout the overall project’s delivery. But he’s confident the quality of service passengers will enjoy in the longer- term will make up for it.

“It’s obviously become a well-known project to Sydneysiders, and it’s been quite disruptive to residents during construction. But over time, I am sure the people of Sydney will appreciate the project, particularly as journey time reduces and the reliability continues to grow,” he said.

“To be honest, these projects historically around the world are quite disruptive, and this is on one of the oldest and busiest streets in Australia. It would be difficult to implement that kind of project anywhere in the world. We managed to get this one online in 2019, a bit later than planned, but the opening has been successful and we look forward to the growth of patronage of that system.”

Sydney Metro a roaring success

Despite all the exciting new technology in Sydney’s new light rail, perhaps the most exciting thing delivered by Alstom in Australia during 2019 was north of the city.

When Sydney Metro Northwest opened on May 26, passengers rode on a fleet of 22 new six-car, driverless metro trains from Alstom, which also delivered signalling and will handle ongoing maintenance work.

In its first six months, the new metro line had serviced more than 11 million journeys.

“It’s been a successful journey,” Coxon said. “It’s the first driverless metro system in Australia, so that took some time for passengers to get used to, but the reliability growth that we’ve seen on our system has been as expected, and very similar to other projects around the world. Today, we’re getting to around 99 per cent availability of the system.

“That project contains two successful aspects for us: the Alstom rollingstock but also the signalling system, our CBTC driverless Urbalis 400 system. The integration between the CBTC system and the rollingstock has been extremely good, and I think that’s one of the advantages of being an integrator of both technologies.”

Maintenance details

The success on Sydney Metro Northwest led the NSW Government to exercise a pre-agreed extension in the original contract to the next portion of the line, Sydney Metro City and Southwest. The news – a $570 million win for Alstom – means Coxon’s team will now deliver another 23 trains (with an option for more), and its Urbalis 400 CBTC along the new portion of the line.

Coxon told Rail Express the extension demonstrated the government’s confidence in Alstom and its colleagues in the Sydney Metro delivery team.

“We always knew the success of Northwest would be a critical component on the augmentation for City & Southwest,” he said. “It’s such an iconic and strategic project for Alstom, and City & Southwest is a similar scope to what we executed on Northwest. Again I think it will demonstrate the importance of integrating the CBTC signalling technologies with the rollingstock.”

Once complete, the City & Southwest project will combine with Northwest to create a 66-kilometre continuous line, complete with Alstom rollingstock and signalling.

“We’re looking forward, as well, to extending the maintenance scope to that full line,” Coxon added.

Huge win in WA

Alstom’s success in 2019 wasn’t limited to the east coast. Early in December it finalised a $1.3 billion deal to deliver 246 EMU railcars 6 DMU to PTA, the public transport operator in WA. Under the 10-year contract, at least 50 per cent of railcar assembly will take place in WA, at a 12,000 sqm plant near the old Midland Railway Workshops. Alstom will also undertake maintenance for 20 years with the option to extend to 30 years.

Coxon told Rail Express the contract win was the result of more than two years of work with the government, local businesses, training organisations and community.

“We’ve had a lot of engagement with local and international suppliers about the local content, and that concluded with the award of that project to Alstom, which we’re absolutely delighted with,” he said. “We’re looking forward to building a train in Western Australia that the people of Perth can be proud of.”

Work to build what will become Alstom’s new rollingstock base in WA is expected to be completed in 2021. Local work under the contract is expected to create at least 200 jobs in supply and maintenance, revitalising the state’s rail manufacturing sector.

“Obviously, it’s a long journey, and we’re going to be part of that recreation of the railcar manufacturing industry in Western Australia, but that’s not the first time Alstom have done that,” Coxon said. “We’ve done it all around the world; the US, South Africa, India, and of course 20 years ago in Victoria with the X’Trapolis trains.

“We’re not newcomers to it, but it is a new journey in Western Australia, and  we’re interested in taking the suppliers on board for that journey, as well as our future employees. We’re going to have to build up a strong skilled workforce in Western Australia.”

Coxon said Alstom is also looking to build a good partnership with the state’s Public Transport Authority, along with its suppliers to build a train which we hope to have on tracks by the middle of 2022.

“What made that contract so attractive to Alstom was the long-term maintenance contract, which allows us to make sure the rollingstock is designed to maintainability as well,” Coxon explained. “We’ll build a strong workforce for the build, and then progressively for the maintenance.

“We’ve included in the project our HealthHub technology which focuses on the predictive maintenance capability, to ensure we’re maintaining the core components as they’re being used, and we can plan our maintenance schedules to optimise availability of the product. That’s a similar product to what we’ve installed for the Sydney Metro, so it’s not the first time we’ve installed it here in Australia, but again is a first for Western Australia.”

Next X’Trapolis in the works

Alstom has been supplying its X’Trapolis metro fleet to Melbourne’s Metro Trains network for nearly two decades, with more than 102 trains delivered. “It has proven to be one of the most reliable products in Australia today, so we’re very proud of this product and our skilled workforce in Ballarat who deliver this,” Coxon said.

After being awarded the preliminary design contract for an X’Trapolis 2.0 in late 2018, Coxon said the team spent a large portion of 2019 working with the state towards a new generation of the successful train.

“The X’Trapolis 2 will have all the latest technologies, adapted to integrate seamlessly into the Melbourne network. We would like to see this product rolled out on the Melbourne network and continue the long and successful story of X’Trapolis Melbourne trains.”

Thornlie-Cockburn Link passes final approvals

Construction work on the Thornlie-Cockburn Link can now begin, with the project passing through the state and federal environmental approvals process.

The project will connect the Mandurah and Armadale lines over 14.5km with new stations at Ranford Rd and Nicholson Rd. Station upgrades will also be carried out at Cockburn Central and Thornlie.

CPB Contractors and Downer will carry out the works, including those works mandated in the final environmental approvals.

Transport Minister Rita Saffioti outlined that the project as a whole has sustainability at its core.

“The McGowan Government is strongly committed to sustainable development, and we want to ensure this important project provides the amenities and features the community wants, and that it is delivered in a sustainable way.”

The project sought feedback from the community and submissions raised environmental issues.

To address this, clearing of native vegetation for the project will be done in an environmentally responsible way. Animals will also be captured and then released by a licenced contractor with advice from the Department of Biodiveristy, Conservation, and Attractions.

“Environmental and heritage considerations are a key priority for the Thornlie-Cockburn Link and these approvals mark an important step forward for this much anticipated project,” said Saffioti.

Thornline MLA, Chris Tallentire, said that the project will benefit the local community.

“It is important that we meet our environmental obligations for the sustainable delivery of our infrastructure commitments. It is fantastic to see that we have reached yet another important milestone for this project,” he said.

“The METRONET Thornlie-Cockburn Link will bust congestion and provide our local community with greater connectivity with Perth city and the broader metro area.”

WA businesses receive capability funding

West Australian businesses have received funding to prepare to locally deliver rollingstock for the state’s Metronet project.

Eight businesses have won funding as part of the Local Capability Fund (LCF) under the Metronet Railcar Procurement round.

Businesses which have received up to $20,000 include refurbishment services provider Frontline Rail, the WA branch of rail transport maintenance and engineering business Chess Engineering, as well as specialist engineering and service providers.

The funding can be used by the businesses for capacity-building, planning, improvements to internal infrastructure, equipment, training, and certifications.

Applications for the fund remain open until January 31, or until funds are exhausted.

Under the contract to deliver new rollingstock for the Metronet project, rail car manufacturer Alstom will utilise local businesses for 50 per cent of the contract.

When complete, Alstom will produce 246 new C-series railcars and six diesel railcars. The railcars will be built in WA at the new Bellevue Assembly Facility.

CBH moves bumper crop by rail

Grain storage, handling, transport, marketing, and processing cooperative, CBH Group has announced that their rail infrastructure moved the largest amount of grain in the company’s history.

8.9 million tonnes of grain was moved by rail to port terminals in the 12 months to September 2019. These figures included six million tonnes of grain from the Kwinana Zone to the Kwinana Grain Terminal for bulk export.

These figures were the result of a record harvest of 16.4m tonnes, 13.8m tonnes of which was shipped from CBH Group’s four grain terminals. 6.2m tonnes were shipped from the Kwinana Grain Terminal.

While these figures were record breaking, global grain market forces left the group with a net loss after tax of $29.7 million and a deficit of $13.3 million.

During the year, CBH invested $285.3m in its network. These funds went towards an expansion of storage capacity, improving supply chain efficiency, and infrastructure maintenance.

CBH Group owns 574 wagons, 26 locomotives, and 12 trains, and in the 2019 year leased two additional locomotives and 131 standard and narrow gauge wagons for parts of the year. Due to the bumper year, three standard gauge fleets and nine narrow gauge fleets moved the grain crop.

Call for stricter penalties over transport staff assaults

Several public transport authorities have stated that penalties for assaults on public transport staff should be increased to come into line with existing protections for emergency service workers.

The Western Australian Government reported a significant reduction in assaults against public officers since it introduced mandatory jail sentences for the offence in 2009 and a minimum jail term of 12 months for grievous bodily harm in 2014. This included a 26 per cent reduction in assaults and a 35 per cent reduction in incidents of obstruction against public officers in the past decade.

Australasian Railway Association (ARA) chief executive officer Danny Broad said that such strong measures were needed to deter assaults.

“Elevating penalties to align with assaults on emergency services staff will reinforce the message that abusing and assaulting transport staff whilst they are simply doing their job will not be tolerated,” Broad said.

The South Australian Government has also tightened regulation surrounding public transport assaults, bringing penalties in line with existing rules for emergency personnel assaults in March 2016. Bus Industry Confederation executive director Michael Apps urged other states and territories to follow suit.

“We have written to Transport Ministers in NSW, Queensland, Victoria, the Australian Capital Territory, the Northern Territory and Tasmania calling on them to adopt a similar approach to Western Australia and South Australia by increasing penalties for those who assault public transport staff,” said Apps.

Naomi Frauenfelder, the executive director of rail charity TrackSAFE Foundation, added that appropriate penalties for people who threaten or assault rail staff were a “critical component” in trying to reduce incidents.

Mark McGowan expects Australind replacement in ‘coming years’

The Western Australian Government says that replacing the ageing Bunbury-to-Perth train Australind will take a few more years. 

State premier Mark McGowan explained that while the train was a priority for the government, its plans to build a successor locally was a factor in the slow delivery of the project, stating that a new Australind would be delivered “over coming years”. 

“The work is ongoing, but clearly if you want to get a West Australian-built train we have to go through the processes of making sure that it’s done here and done properly,” he said.

The Westrail ADP/ADQ railcars used on the Bunbury-to-Perth line have been active since 1987. The train received $700,000 of maintenance work as part of the WA Government’s $1.6 billion Railcar Program this year, returning to service on May 15 after being out of commission for much of 2019.

However, the train’s performance has remained inconsistent, and it was pulled from the tracks again five days later.

McGowan explained that assessment of the train had uncovered a lot of rust and that the government wanted to ensure the trains were secure enough for public use.

“It’s 32 years old and we did a proper assessment of it and uncovered a lot of rust, so we’ve got to make sure that it’s safe and fit-for-purpose whilst we build a new train and that’s what we’re doing,” he said.

“Obviously we need to maintain that and get it fixed whilst we build a new train.

“We want to make sure it’s a good service, a safe service and in the future an outstanding service with a West Australian-built train.”

Mineral Resources, Brockman delay Marillana rail and port project

Joint venture mining partners Mineral Resources and Brockman Mining have extended their delivery deadlines for the Marillana mine-to-port rail system in Western Australia.

The light rail line forms part of the wider $300 million Marillana iron ore project, and is intended to transport ore roughly 270 kilometres from the mine site to a capsize carrier berth located at Port Hedland. 

Mineral Resources and Brockman have agreed to extend the completion date of their farm-in period by up to 12 months to July 31 2020, resulting in a delay to the construction and operation deadlines for the rail and port system.

Mineral Resources, through subsidiary Polaris, is responsible for the overall construction and operation of the Marillana rail and port system.

Construction of the line is now expected to begin on or before December 31 2020, with operations to be scheduled on or before December 31 2022.

The delay is due to Mineral Resources’ ongoing negotiations related to its mine to ship agreement (MSA). The company is still procuring licences and leases for the system, including approval from the WA State Government and company board as the project moves towards its final investment decision.

Brockman will still retain a right to acquire the whole of Mineral Resources’ interest in the joint venture if the revised target dates are not met.

Brockman stated that the timetable on the project had been adjusted “to reflect modifications in the design and an extended testing period to ensure a workable system with sufficient capacity”.

Collie Railway roundhound and turntable receive heritage listing

Western Australia’s sole remaining railway roundhouse and timetable has received heritage listing from the WA State Government. 

Built in the 1950s for steam trains serving the coal industry, the roundhouse and turntable will be restored by the McGowan Government thanks to a $998,532 grant from the Collie Futures Industry Development Fund. 

Member for Collie-Preston Mick Murray called the move a “step in the right direction”, stating that the Collie community had been advocating for the restoration and recognition of the roadhouse.

“The new heritage listing of the roundhouse will be welcomed by the community as we move towards unlocking its true potential as an attraction that people will travel from across the State to visit and learn about its rich history,” he said.

The McGowan Government said that the restoration would “unlock heritage, tourism and small business opportunities”, providing an avenue to diversify the region’s economy.

The turntable, which is electrically articulated and made from timber and metal, is the only one of its type left in WA, while the roadhouse is constructed from off-form concrete.

“The Collie Roundhouse is a significant historical site that demonstrates the development of coal mining in Collie,” said WA Acting Heritage Minister Stephen Dawson.

“This reflects the growth of Western Australia in the mid-20th century and the increased consumption of coal for electricity generation that came with that growth.

“The built form of the place makes it a dramatic and dominant building located on the western entry into Collie.”

BHP proposal approval lays out 100-year plan for the Pilbara

Western Australia’s McGowan Government has approved mining giant BHP’s plans for expansion in the Pilbara region, which includes plans for the company’s freight rail operations.

BHP’s plan lays out a strategic mining proposal for the next 50 to 100 years in the region, including mining, rail, storage, dams and associated infrastructure, with a plan to halve future approval timeframes. 

BHP is a freight operator on the Mt Newman and Goldsworthy railways, which run from the town of Port Hedland in the northern Pilbara.

The WA Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has also recommended BHP’s plan, subject to certain conditions. Particularly crucial to the EPA’s assessment was that BHP’s plan not significantly impact important regions such as Karijini National Park and Fortescue Marsh.

“The EPA gave BHP’s strategic proposal careful consideration, including considering the impacts to fauna, flora, surface and groundwater, air quality, landforms and social surrounds,” said WA Environment Minister Stephen Dawson. 

“Strategic proposals allow the EPA to take a bigger picture view of the potential environmental impacts the proposals may have, considering the cumulative impacts rather than on a case-by-case basis, as individual mines or developments are proposed.”

The WA Government added that the proposal would help to reduce red tape and green tape, allowing the EPA to assess the cumulative effect of future proposals rather than on a case-by-case basis.

“Industry has been crying out for this type of plan. It recognises the need to reduce unnecessary ‘green tape’ to increase investor confidence, and pave the way for more jobs,” said WA Premier Mark McGowan.

“It is another sign our economy is improving with the major miner taking a long-term view of its proposals in the State.