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. 

Rio Tinto AutoHaul trains establish WA as ‘global leader’ for rail technology

Mining major Rio Tinto has joined the Western Australia Government and technology partner Hitachi Rail STS to celebrate the successful rollout of its AutoHaul autonomous freight rail network.

The project, which has been in the making for over 10 years since the launch of Rio Tinto’s Mine of the Future initiative in 2008, is formally considered the world’s first automated heavy-haul long distance rail network, and delivering its first iron ore in July 2018. The driverless train system has also been informally referred to by Rio Tinto itself as the “world’s largest robot”.

The 2.4 kilometre-long trains, which are monitored and controlled from Rio Tinto’s Remote Operations Centre (ROC) in Perth, deliver iron ore from 16 mines to ports in Dampier and Cape Lambert across a 1,700-kilometre network. In total, the trains have now travelled over 4.5 million kilometres collectively since their first deployment last year.

Rio Tinto Iron Ore managing director Ivan Vella said that the project had attracted worldwide interest and cemented Western Australia as a heavy-haul rail leader.

“The success of AutoHaul would not have been possible without the expertise, collaboration and dedication of teams within Rio Tinto and our numerous partners,” said Vella.

WA Minister for Mines and Petroleum Bill Johnston also congratulated Rio Tinto, Hitachi and other partners on the project (which includes companies such as New York Air Brake and Wabtec) for their dedication to delivering AutoHaul.

“AutoHaul has brought the rail freight industry in this country into the 21st century and is rightfully the subject of global interest,” Johnston said. “I’d also like to mention that the development of the world’s biggest robot is such a success because of the contribution from Western Australia’s skilled engineers and innovative workers.”

Metronet East redevelopment to add new stations

Two Perth train stations are to be added to the Western Australian Government’s Metronet East Redevelopment Area “to ensure vibrancy, housing and jobs are the focus of each revitalisation”, according to a statement from Transport Minister Rita Saffioti.

The project will expand the existing Midland redevelopment area to incorporate the Bayswater and Forrestfield station precincts in Perth. The process is expected to take around 12 months, with Planning Control Areas to be organised in the interim by the WA Planning Commission.

“It is important for the wider community that the State Government harnesses its investment in Metronet to deliver outcomes such as quality infill, housing choice and jobs — which will build a stronger economy and save taxpayers in the longer term,” Minister Saffioti said.

Works at Forrestfield are currently underway, with early works on the Bayswater station upgrade expected to commence in 2019.

Minister Saffioti said that consultation would take place with the cities of Bayswater, Kalamunda and Swan in the coming months to discuss the amendment of the Midland Redevelopment Scheme project being led by the Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority (MRA).

The MRA is working with Bayswater on its town centre structure plan to make sure it incorporates the new plans, while Kalamunda will continue to plan the broader Forrestfield area outside the redevelopment area.

“By creating Metronet East we bring together our commitment to creating more housing and employment choice and maximising our transformative investment in the Bayswater, Forrestfield and Midland areas,” Saffioti said.

“The best possible outcome for each of the Metronet East precincts would be for them to develop into more attractive areas for people to live, work and visit for recreation.”

National survey shows transport biggest driver of apartment value

A national survey of apartment owners and occupiers found more than half valued their apartment most highly due to its proximity to public transport.

The survey of more than 3,300 respondents around the country by not-for-profit Western Australian Apartment Advocacy (WAAA) found proximity to transport to be the primary goal for apartment seekers, and also the thing they most consistently like the most about their apartment once they’re settled.

The survey showed 61 per cent of New South Wales respondents prioritised public transport in selecting an apartment, while 66 per cent did so in Victoria, and 49 per cent in WA.

WA housing minister Peter Tinley said the survey was a “ringing endorsement” of the McGowan Government’s Metronet project, which prioritises higher density development around new and extended rail lines in the Perth area.

The Government has tabbed value capture – charging private landowners who benefit from taxpayer-funded rail lines – as a funding strategy for Metronet, a strategy which has been rubbished by the Opposition.

Tinley said the WAAA statistics were a win for the McGowan Government’s vision for the future of the state’s housing needs, which includes increasing the number of homes around train stations by 45 per cent.

“Our priority of increasing the number of homes around train stations by 45 per cent, exemplified by the McGowan Government’s Metronet scheme, is reflective of what WA apartment owners are seeking now and into the future,” he said.

“The McGowan Government, in partnership with industry, is building transport-connected, well located, well designed, sustainable and affordable housing where it’s needed.”

 

Developers well aware

The survey is the latest clear connection between the value of property and the presence of good public transport. While value capture is an unpopular prospect for many property developers, it’s clear developers are aware of this connection.

Canberra developer Geocon has this week come under fire for using an unbuilt light rail line to market its Grand Central Towers project in Canberra.

Advertising material for Grand Central Towers features Canberra Light Rail Stage 2 – which hasn’t yet been finalised – as a primary selling point, telling potential buyers they could use the rail line to get to the city. The development’s logo features a pair of light rail vehicles as a core component of its design.

“Living in Grand Central Towers and being able to walk out the front door, and jump on the light rail, and be in the city in under ten minutes, every five minutes, is an extraordinary opportunity for Canberrans,” Geocon managing director Nick Georgalis says in one video. “We’ve never had this type of amenity or public transport available for people that live in apartment complexes.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4kiSt–gkv4

Stage one of the Canberra Light Rail network, which opened last month, operates at a peak frequency of once every six minutes. An ACT Government spokesperson reportedly told the ABC Geocon had not been provided with any more information than the public about the operating standards forecast for the second stage of light rail.

Local member for Murrumbidgee Caroline Le Couteur said the developer’s frequency claims were “optimistic”.

“Grand Central’s tagline is ‘time is the ultimate luxury’. It was selling this as a sales point,” Le Couteur, a member of the ACT Greens, was quoted as saying.

“It [concerned] me because I thought we had the real possibility that in however many years’ time, when the light rail and Grand Central were both finished, there would be a bunch of people who were upset because they bought something thinking it was going to have much better public transport than possibly it will end up having.”

Demolition commences on Perth level crossing removal

Procurement and demolition works have begun on the Denny Avenue level crossing removal project in the Perth suburb of Kelmscott.

Old buildings in the vicinity of the crossing, which the WA State Government referred to as being “notoriously dangerous”, are being cleared through the federal- and state-funded public transport program Metronet to make room for its Kelmscott project development. The scope of the demolition includes five state houses on Railway Avenue and Third Avenue.

Statistics from the WA Government state that the boom gates at the Denny Avenue level crossing are down for an average of three hours and seven minutes a day, with excessive wait times leading to risk-taking behaviour from drivers who try to cross the track when the boom gate is down or descending.

Work is set to commence later in the year to replace the crossing through the development of a lowered road and raised rail at Davis Road, which runs parallel to Denny Avenue. The crossing at Denny Avenue will be removed entirely.

The WA government is engaging contractors to help design and construct the $69 million development, which will incorporate a rail and bridge contract and a road and civic infrastructure contract.

“Each package of works has a different risk profile for the contractor, so the decision was made to split them into two design and construct contracts,” said WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti.

“The removal of the Denny Avenue level crossing will greatly improve the daily lives of drivers, pedestrians and cyclists, improving safety and decreasing road congestion in the area.”

The chosen contractors will be required to work under the proviso that they keep road and rail disruption in the Kelmscott area to a minimum.

The Denny Avenue project marks an important milestone as the first part of Metronet’s level crossing removal program.