AusRAIL, Market Sectors

The major rail stories for 2012

<span class="" id="parent-fieldname-description"> 2012 was a big year for the Australian rail industry news-wise. The following provides our readership with a concise wrap-up of the top rail stories for the last 12 months. </span> <p>By Jennifer Perry</p><p><strong>January </strong></p><ul><li>John Holland Rail commenced operations as the new manager of the NSW regional rail network (CRN) making it the first-ever accredited private rail transport operator of a government owned heavy rail network in the state.</li></ul><p><strong>February</strong></p><ul><li>In a world-first, Rio Tinto announced it will invest US$518m for an automated long-distance rail network with the first driverless train to be launched in 2014.</li><li>Following widespread reports of mud holes along the Sydney-Melbourne line, the ATSB found no systemic issues along the line but its report identified opportunities for ARTC to further improve the safety of its operations on the network. ARTC went on to announce its $134m Ballast Rehabilitation Program to fast track works to improve the ballast condition of the track.</li></ul><p><strong>March </strong></p><ul><li>A groundbreaking rail safety foundation, trackSAFE, was established to tackle suicide on the Australian rail network on a national scale for the first time, as well as trespass and level crossing safety, in order to mitigate the trauma caused to rail industry employees as a result of these.</li></ul><p><strong>April</strong></p><ul><li>The first stage of ambitious $172m Port Botany Rail Upgrade was completed which is expected to take 300,000 trucks a year off Sydney’s roads.</li><li>Clearer details emerged for the NSW Government’s controversial North West Rail Link (NWRL), most notably, the project will feature the deepest and longest rail tunnel ever to be built in Australia and 4km of the 23km rail link will be an above ground Skytrain.</li></ul><p><strong>May </strong></p><ul><li>A big month for news, but no good news for the industry in the Federal Government’s 2012-13 budget with a very small rail spend. $232.1m was earmarked for Adelaide’s Torrens and Goodwood Junctions Upgrade project and $9.2m for the establishment of Australia’s new National Rail Safety Regulator (NRSR). While the Victorian Government allocated $49.7m for the proposed Melbourne Metro in its own 2012-13 budget released this month, it was clear that the project hinged on federal funding and this was a pretty glaring federal budget omission, especially considering the government’s own Infrastructure Australia (IA) has said the 9km twin rail tunnel is “ready to proceed,” three times over.</li><li>A positive development in Melbourne was the completion of the $498m Epping-South Morang Rail extension, the biggest expansion of Melbourne’s rail network since the City Loop partially opened 31 years ago.</li><li>This month saw the Federal Government announce the tender process for Sydney’s new Moorebank Intermodal Terminal which is expected to be operational as from 2017.</li><li>Still on the freight theme, SCT Logistics officially took possession of six SDA1 diesel locomotives manufactured by China Southern Rail (CSR), the first non-American powered heavy haul locomotives to enter the Australian rail market.</li></ul><p><strong>June</strong></p><ul><li>June was the biggest month of the year for major rail headlines right across the country, headed up by the full construction officially commencing on the Regional Rail Link (RRL), marked by the project’s final contract being awarded to Leighton Downer JV for the works at West Werribee Junction. RRL is Australia’s largest public transport infrastructure project</li><li>While it’s always a little tricky to tease out what is actually new spending in governments’ budgets, it appeared that the NSW 2012-13 budget handed down this month allocated $3.3bn over the next four years for the construction of the North West Rail Link and $397m to continue construction on the South West Rail Link.</li><li>The government’s Sydney’s Rail Future plan was also released to increase the capacity of Sydney’s rail network by 60%, most notably by the introduction of single deck, rapid transit trains on the NWRL and a new second heavy rail crossing under Sydney Harbour and the CBD. The plan drew mixed response from government and industry circles.</li><li>Rail didn’t fare well in South Australia’s 2012-13 budget, with the government announcing it would postpone “indefinitely” the electrification of the Adelaide to Outer Harbor and Gawler lines though it would still push on with its electrification of the line to Noarlunga and the new Seaford extension. On the upside, $110m was allocated for grade separation of interstate and suburban tracks at Goodwood Junction.</li><li>A very interesting development this month in Australia’s sunshine state, with the Queensland Government announcing it will recognise just two rail corridors to serve the mining developments in the Galilee and Bowen Basins, following much confusion over a number of conflicting rail proposals. The government’s preferred option is for an east-west corridor based around an extension of the existing Aurizon network and a north-south rail corridor along an alignment proposed by the GVK-Hancock Coal JV.</li><li>Progress was also made with the industry’s historic safety reform with the UK’s Rob Andrews appointed as Australia’s first National Rail Safety Regulator NRSR.</li></ul><p><strong>July </strong></p><ul><li>Downer’s announcement that it would cease building locomotives in Australia was big news for industry and certainly indicative of the rising trend towards offshore manufacturing. All future locomotives for the Australian market to be manufactured by the company’s partner, EMD, at one of its new low cost overseas facilities</li><li>July 1 saw the Federal Government’s carbon tax come into play that provides the trucking industry a two year moratorium which the ARA argues will cost Australian rail companies $110m each year.</li><li>The first major milestone was achieved in the Federal Government’s $1.1bn Northern Sydney Freight Corridor with ARTC commissioning a new passing loop at Hexham. The project is set to improve rail freight flows through Sydney and rail’s modal share on the North South corridor.</li></ul><p><strong>August</strong></p><ul><li>After 50 years of discussion, Queensland’s Moreton Bay Rail Link gained some traction this month with the government outlining its plans for the design and construction of the $1.15bn 12.6km heavy rail line to connect Petrie and Kippa-Ring.</li><li>This month saw Spanish rolling stock manufacturer Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles (CAF) gained its first foothold in the Australian market with the award of a $20m contract to supply new light rail vehicles&nbsp for the Sydney Light Rail extension.</li><li>CBH Group officially launched the first dedicated grain rail fleet in Western Australia in over 30 years which were manufactured by US company Motive Power.</li></ul><p><strong>September</strong></p><ul><li>Perth’s first light rail system, the Metro Area Express or MAX, got the green light with the Western Australian and Federal Governments jointly committing to a $15.8m feasibility study. Total project cost is expected to exceed $1bn.</li><li>The GoldLinQ consortium, which is heading up Queensland’s largest public transport infrastructure project, Gold Coast light rail, began track-laying in September for the 13km Stage One route.</li><li>News this month was also dominated by government plans: the NSW Government released its long-awaited 20-year Long Term Transport Master Plan to deliver to the state a “world-class public transport, roads and freight network” and IA released its updated National Land Freight Strategy which it said will “fix the regulatory and infrastructure failures which it claims have cost the Australian economy tens of billions of dollars in lost export earnings.”</li></ul><p><strong>October</strong></p><ul><li>The Western Australian Government announced that the state’s Tier 3 grain railway lines that were due to close at the end of the month would remain open until 2013.</li><li>IA suggested in a new report that Australia’s governments could sell-off more than $100bn worth of government-owned assets, including ARTC’s Hunter Valley rail network, to the private sector to reverse the nation’s infrastructure gap.</li></ul><p><strong>November</strong></p><ul><li>QR National officially changed its name to Aurizon which it said would make a clear statement about the company’s growing Australia-wide footprint and growth aspirations.</li><li>Brookfield Rail announced the completion of its $550m MidWest Rail Upgrade that provides improved transport links to the Port of Geraldton for emerging and junior iron ore miners operating in the region.</li><li>The power of harnessing social media to engage with rail customers was demonstrated by the ‘Dumb ways to die,’ video produced for Melbourne suburban rail operator Metro, which became an international internet sensation going viral and generating over 12 million YouTube hits in just five days and reportedly in the top 10 iTunes chart and ranked as high as No. 6 globally for a short period of time.</li></ul><p><strong>December</strong></p><ul><li>The Federal Government released its State of Australian Cities 2012 edition which stated passenger rail would increasingly be doing the ‘heavy lifting’ in Australian cities While greater capacity is needed to allow this to happen, the report argued that rail’ role is being constrained by its unsustainable financial model and suggests greater farebox recovery and land value capture around stations as possible funding options.</li><li>Plenty of news for NSW, with Sydney’s NWRL reaching it’s biggest milestone all year with the NSW Government calling for expressions of interest for the multi-billion-dollar Operations, Trains and Systems (OTS) contract for the project and the government also announcing a further 12km extension of the Sydney Light Rail network to be built through the Sydney CBD to Randwick and Kingsford as part of the release of the final version of its Long Term Transport Master Plan. </li><li>On the downside, after months of speculation, the NSW Government announced plans that would see the heavy rail line to the Newcastle CBD cut back to Wickham within the next three to five years and commuters forced to complete the last part of their journey by bus.<br /><br /><br />&nbsp</li></ul>