Special rail licence announced for $1.7b Eliwana Mine and Railway Project

The Western Australian Government has approved Stage 2 of the railway component apart of the $1.7 billion Eliwana Mine and Railway Project.

The Premier visited Naval Base to inspect work on major bridges for Fortescue Metals Group’s project last week where he announced the grant of a Special Rail Licence.

The licence allows Fortescue Metal Group to be granted construction and operation for Eliwana iron ore mine and rail project in the Pilbara region.

The Eliwana railway project includes 143 kilometres of single track, standard gauge heavy haul railway, two bridge railway crossings, and an underpass for the Karratha-Tom Price Road.

The 2,600 tonnes of steel fabrication being produced at Naval Base by Pacific Industrial Company includes 16 bridge modules up to 46 metres long.

When the project is completed in December, the railway will have an initial capacity of 30 million tonnes a year.

Premier Mark McGowan said “Eliwana is a huge project not only for Fortescue but for a lot of small to medium enterprises in Western Australia and for the 2,400 workers in total who are expected to get jobs out of it”.

The Eliwana railway project is expected to create 1,120 jobs during construction.

Over three quarters, around $1b, of the investment in the Eliwana project has gone to 290 Western Australian-based businesses, with about nine per cent going to businesses in other parts of Australia.

$1.4 million upgrade of regional stations in WA now complete

The new North Dandalup and Cookernup stations are now open for passengers on Transwa’s Australind route.

The North Dandalup and Cookernup train stations shared in upgrades worth $1.28 million as part of the McGowan Government’s election commitment to improve transport in south-west WA.

The $750,000 upgrade of the North Dandalup station and $650,000 upgrade of the Cookernup station began last year.

Both train stations’ existing low-level platforms are now raised platforms to be fully compliant with Disability Discrimination ACT standards.

The opening of the towns’ new train stations are ahead of the six new diesel railcars to replace the existing Australind service between Perth and Bunbury currently being built and commissioned in Bellevue.

Two car bays and one disability parking bay, line marking and bollards, new kerbing, and bitumen surfaces have also been installed at both stations, as well as better lighting, signage, fencing, and pedestrian paths. 

A number of other regional station upgrades including Yarloop and Carrabin have also been completed in the past 18 months.

WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said the Australind service is a local icon which has operated for more than 70 years.

“These small local stations provide a vital transport link for people in more isolated parts of the South-West – but due to their age, the infrastructure hasn’t kept pace with standards of accessibility,” Saffioti said.

WA Premier Mark McGowan said “The South-West is an important part of our State and it’s vital we provide public transport infrastructure for local residents, which is why we have upgraded four local train stations over the past 18 months.”

Australind railcar design and action plan revealed

Designs for new Western Australian made Australind railcar have been revealed.

WA Premier Mark McGowan and Transport Minister Rita Saffioti visited Bunbury Station on Thursday to unveil the designs of the brand new $54 million Australind railcar sets, which will be built by Alstom.

The two new Australind trains are apart of the McGowan Government’s $1.25 billion railcar program.

The state government also announced an Australind Action Plan, promising to deliver additional public transport for South-West commuters ahead of completion of new railcars.

The existing Australind train was originally planned to have an operational life of up to 30 years, however factors such as corrosion that built up over time has been a leading cause of cancelled services.

The McGowan Government in a statement said while extensive maintenance has been undertaken to keep the rolling stock operating, “ageing and obsolescence resulting from this neglect has led to a number of delays and cancelled services”.

Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said, “as we transition from the old Australind to the new Australind railcars, we are committed to ensuring that the current train continues to provide a reliable service”.

“We have also introduced a raft of measures to provide more certainty for passengers as we await the delivery of the new train.”

As part of this, the McGowan Government is introducing a trial non-stop road coach service departing from Bunbury Station at 6am every weekday and returning to Bunbury in the evening, enabling passengers who need to commute the opportunity to travel on a fast-tracked, non-stop luxury road coach service.

The road coach will drop passengers at Mandurah Station, where they can continue their journey free of charge on the metropolitan rail system by presenting their Transwa ticket.

The McGowan Government has also introduced a credit program for Australind rail passengers so if their train journey is delayed by more than an hour due to maintenance issues or failure of rolling stock, they will be given a credit to take their next journey free of charge.

The new Australind trains will be a three-car set, and will have a modernised interior, with USB connection points, Wi-Fi, an improved kiosk, upright storage for 16 bicycles, and three toilets.

The railcar sets, being built by Western Australian workers in Bellevue, are expected to be delivered in 2022-23.

Alstom finalises $1.3 billion contract for WA’s biggest railcar order

Alstom will build 246 Metronet railcars as well as a manufacturing and assembly plant in Bellevue, Western Australia, after the project contract was finalised this week.

According to the state government, the railcar manufacturing order “has come in $347 million under the original budget of $1.6 billion”. Under the 10-year contract at least 50 per cent of the railcars will be built locally.

As part of the project, Alstom will establish a base in WA at the 12,000 square metre plant near the old Midland Railway Workshops where railcar maintenance will also be carried out for the next 30 years.

“Work will start on building the new production plant in Bellevue and completed in 2021 next year, on top of six other Metronet projects that will be under construction in 2020 alone,” WA premier Mark McGowan said.

Since the closure of the Midland Railway Workshops in 1994, WA’s trains have been predominately built in Queensland with only two per cent of the work completed in WA. The local work will create 200 jobs as well as a number of indirect jobs, according to the WA government.

“Not only were local jobs lost, it was also more expensive to outsource railcar supply. The cost per railcar under the last order of B-Series trains was $4.05 million, while the cost under the new C-Series contract is around $2.97 million,” a government spokesperson has said.

Local companies have already been awarded contracts for fitting out the Bellevue railcar plant, including a $3.8 million contract awarded to Vector Lifting for the delivery of lifting jacks, a bogie press and bogie turntables has. An $850,000 contract for the supply of four cranes was recently awarded to Bassendean manufacturer Eilbeck.

“We’ve secured a quality deal for the state, by bundling multiple railcar orders into one super-contract, we have encouraged the market to make very competitive bids for the work,” minister for transport Rita Saffioti said.

“Importantly, this project will also deliver two three-car sets to replace The Australind and provide South-West residents with the reliable rail service they deserve.”

The contract includes 246 railcars, arranged in 41 six-car EMU sets, for additional Metronet capacity and to replace the ageing A-Series. It also includes six railcars to replace the existing Australind service, which will be delivered as two three-car DMU sets.

The first C-series trains produced at the Bellevue plant will be ready to use on the network in 2022 and will have an operational life of 35 years.  The new Australind railcars are expected to be ready in 2022-23.

Alstom Australia & New Zealand managing director Mark Coxon said the contract structure would allow the state to manage Perth’s projected future growth while re-establishing its rail manufacturing industry.

“We are delighted to have been awarded this contract and look forward to partnering with the state of Western Australia to deliver this significant project,” Coxon said.

Better technology including LED lighting, USB charging points and regenerative braking will also be installed to make the new trains more efficient. Once operational, Alstom’s HealthHub predictive maintenance tools will be used to optimise performance and reliability.

“The project will see the transfer of the latest railway technologies and manufacturing processes to Western Australia, establishing the most technologically advanced train manufacturing and maintenance sites in Australia,” an Alstom spokesperson said.

The company is also set to partner with local TAFE and training organisations to create new fast-tracked training and skills development programmes.

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.”

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.”

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.”