‘Pave over the tracks’, think tank says

A British think tank has suggested commuters could pay 40% less for their journeys if the UK government ripped up some railways and replaced them with dedicated bus roads.

The Institute of Economic Affairs this week released a report, ‘Paving over the tracks: a better use of Britain’s railways?’

“The reluctance of policy makers to consider more efficient forms of public transport has led to expensive fares and sardine-like conditions for commuters across the country,” the IEA said on Tuesday.

According to the IEA’s report, above-ground commuter railways transport a quarter of a million passengers into London during the morning peak hour.

That works out to about 10,000 commuters per track, “many of whom have to stand during their journey”, the IEA said.

“150 express coaches, each seating 75 individuals would be able to carry the same number of commuters while occupying one seventh of the capacity of a one-lane busway, of a similar width to that required by a train,” the IEA said.

The British think tank said the busways could offer comparable, if not shorter travel times, and could do so at a cheaper cost than existing railways.

The IEA said rail had received a “disproportional” amount of funding compared to alternate modes of transport, and that this needed to be fixed.

“Individuals in the UK are far more likely to travel by car than train, with 90% of passengers and 70% of freight traffic carried by roads,” the group said. “Despite this disparity, state funding of railways is just 30% lower than that spent on roads.”

Report co-author and IEA transport head Dr Richard Wellings said politicians were to blame.

“Ongoing interference by politicians in the rail industry has led to everyone getting a raw deal,” Wellings said.

“Passengers face increasingly expensive fares only to fight their way onto trains during peak times and taxpayers continue to prop up an industry whose importance to the country is disproportionally small relative to the level of resources it receives.

“Adopting more efficient methods of transport could offer considerable benefits to passengers and the taxpayer alike. But only when the sector is liberalised from rigid state control, will we see such alternatives being seriously considered.”

The report can be viewed here.

 

5 most important storylines from Queensland election

The scrapping of government plans to help fund a proposed shared railway through Queensland’s resource-rich Galilee Basin is just one of the major storylines for rail and resources industry to monitor in the fallout of Queensland’s election.

Shared Galilee infrastructure on knife’s edge

Campbell Newman’s plans to set aside a portion of taxpayers’ money for the development of a shared rail line and associated infrastructure through the Galilee is on the ropes, with its future dependent on the balance of power in parliament.

Prior to the election Newman said a re-elected LNP Government would work to provide miners in the Galilee Basin with a shared rail line that would connect their proposed mining projects with Abbot Point, or another export facility, on the coast.

The now ex-premier said his party would provide at least some of the funds for the development of that infrastructure.

But Annastacia Palaszczuk, leader of the opposition going into the election, and likely the next premier of Queensland, is against the funding.

Palaszczuk said in the lead-up to Sunday’s election that Galilee miners should have to be viable to succeed without government support, and that such financial assistance for a shared piece of infrastructure would not come from a Labor Government.

However, without a majority in parliament, Labor would need to ally itself with smaller parties and independents.

Katter’s Australia Party, led by Rob Katter – the son of polarising former federal politician Bob Katter – could be key to Labor getting its policies through parliament, should the party not hold the majority vote.

At time of writing (with roughly 85% of all votes counted), predictions have Labor winning 44 or 45 seats. With 45, the party would have all the power it needs to get its legislation through parliament.

But with just 44 seats, Labor would need to ally itself with Katter’s party (2 seats), or Nicklin independent Peter Wellington (1 seat), or with all three seats, to form a majority vote.

If Labor holds 44 seats after the election, and the LNP holds 42, however, the LNP could strike a deal with Katter’s party and the independent Wellington, giving it the 45 voting seats it needs to have its way in parliament.

If the LNP holds the balance of power, it could still go through with its plans for the Galilee. And experts are predicting that in order to strike a deal with Katter’s party, Labor might have to commit to a similar level of funding for the Galilee project.

Recognising 40 years of railway innovation

Australia’s premier applied research centre in railway technology last week celebrated four decades of innovative solutions in mining and commuter rail systems.

A Celebration of 40 Years of Railway Research andTechnology was held last Thursday at the Park Hyatt, Melbourne, to celebrate the 40 years of railway research and technology by Monash University’s Institute of Railway Technology (IRT).

Originally part of research activities undertaken for the companies now known as BHP Billiton Iron Ore and Rio Tinto Iron Ore, IRT is now an applied research centre at Monash University. It provides technical assistance to the world’s three biggest iron ore producers, BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Vale (Brazil), and more than 90 other railway entities, including leading commuter rail authorities.

IRT, which has clients in several countries, specialises in providing comprehensive solutions to technical issues in existing rail systems, whether they transport iron ore, freight or commuters. IRT is also a leader in remotely monitoring tracks and rolling stock using cutting-edge technology to detect faults before catastrophic failures occur.

Monash University’s senior deputy vice-chancellor and deputy vice-chancellor (research) Professor Edwina Cornish, congratulated IRT on leading the Australian railway technology field for four decades.

“The Institute of Railway Technology is a great example of how universities and industry can collaborate to develop solutions that drive technology forward,” Prof Cornish said.

“IRT was born out of industry need and now real-world problems continue to drive its agenda.”

Director of IRT, Ravi Ravitharan, said the institute was set to build on its success.

“IRT is continuously developing new technologies to support increasing productivity and safety requirements of the rail industry,” Ravitharan said.

“Being part of Australia’s largest university, IRT is well-placed to continue to lead the railway research and technology needs of the rejuvenated railway industry.”

The Victorian minister for public transport Terry Mulder, delivered the keynote address at the gala dinner and general manager of infrastructure at the Hong Kong rail authority MTR, Richard Keefe, and rail engineering manager at Rio Tinto Iron Ore, Leland LeBreton, both long term clients of IRT, also spoke at the event.

Heavy Haul Rail
28th – 29th August 2012 | Newcastle City Hall
www.informa.com.au/heavyhaulrail

Rail turnout - RISSB

Future locos to focus on fuel and emissions

Technology roadmaps for locomotives of the future focus on two key areas according to GE Transportation’s Pete Lawson: fuel and emissions.

“The reason for that is, there is an increasing emissions regulatory environment where we sell locomotives and…where there isn’t a regulatory environment, anytime we can lower fuel is a good thing for better operations,” Lawson told Rail Express yesterday at AusRAIL PLUS.

About 75 per cent of the diesel electric market worldwide is operating under some kind of local emission regulation. America leads the way in terms of the toughest and most restrictive regulatoryenvironment for locomotives.

“The EPA doesn’t just look at meeting the levels for emissions when you ship your product new, it also requires the unit to be compliant for its useful life and…the EPA has the ability to grab a unit at any point in time…and test it to validate emissions are being maintained,” Lawson said.

Australia has no emission regulations for locomotives and nothing planned for the future. However, Lawson believes this is necessary as a responsible “citizen of the world”, especially since there is existing technology which allows locomotives to operate at significantly lower emissions levels.

The Railway Technical Society of Australasia’s executive chairman Martin Baggott told Rail Expresseven though locomotive emissions are not legislated in Australia eventually, “one way or the other this will come about”, either through direct regulation or implied through an ETS or a carbon charge.

But the Federal Government’s current ETS does not include transportation –something the industry has taken issue with – with implications for companies having to set their own emissions benchmarks.

Lawson’s final words to AusRAIL PLUS delegates were timely for industry players in Australia.

Effective emissions regulations in America has resulted in significant improvements for theenvironment, safety, operations and cost, he said.
“As a rail industry it’s critically important that we be an extremely active participant in the development of any emissions safety or regulation. At the end of the day the OEMs and operators are going to have to live with those regulations and implement them and having input and a voice in the development of those is critical,” he said.

“We must continue to invest and look forward in technology; it’s difficult to do in a downward cycle, but if you stop and take your eye off the future, the catch-up is nearly impossible.

“Cleaner and greener can be a very cost effective solution for operators and do not have to be mutually exclusive.”

Bligh tells Waratah Coal alternative needed to Shoalwater Bay

Waratah Coal was left exposed politically today as Queensland premier Anna Bligh effectively backed federal environment minister Peter Garrett’s rejection of the export infrastructure plan.

The miner had planned to run a 500-km rail line from its proposed mine at Alpha in the Galilee, to the Shoalwater Bay military training area, but Mr Garrett rejected it.

“This proposal would have clearly unacceptable impacts on the internationally recognised Shoalwater and Corio Bay Ramsar wetlands and the high wilderness value of Shoalwater which is acknowledged in its Commonwealth Heritage listing,” Mr Garrett said.

“The impacts of the rail line and port facility are simply too great to effectively mitigate, and would destroy the ecological integrity of the area. They are impacts that cannot be reduced with offsets or managed through approval conditions.

“Destruction of fragile wilderness areas cannot be reversed. As minister for the environment, I am required by law to protect the environment from actions on Commonwealth land.”

“I have carefully considered the advice from my department on the broader proposal and agree that the plan to run a rail line through Shoalwater and build a coal port in the location proposed is clearly unacceptable.

“I wish to make it abundantly clear that I have rejected this proposal because of the impacts the route of the rail line and the location of the coal port would have on the environment.”

In response, Waratah Coal chief executive Peter Lynch signalled the miner’s intention to fight the decision.

“Waratah considers that the minister for environment has exceeded his authority in dealing with Waratah’s proposal in the manner he has and believes the decision is wrong in law, and not in the national interest,” chief executive Peter Lynch said.

“Waratah does not believe that the proposal has been properly considered or its impacts properly assessed.

“Waratah considers that its proposal should have been afforded the opportunity of scrutiny under a properly directed and formatted environmental impact study and its economic significance properly assessed.

“Waratah intends to proceed with an immediate challenge to the minister’s decision in the Federal Court of Australia.”

However, Ms Bligh indicated the miner should find an alternative.

“I also understand that the Federal Government has indicated to the developer that another site would be considered anew,” Ms Bligh said.

“If there are other possible ways that this resource could be brought to port, then the developer needs to look at that and come back to both the state and federal governments for another examination.”

Fortescue starts second round of environment approvals

Fortesue Metals has released the environmental review of its planned Chichester Ranges mining operations and its connecting east-west rail spur for public comment.

The company released the first part of its environmental review, covering its planned port facilities at Anderson Point in Port Hedland and the main north-south rail line from the mine site to the port.

Fortescue said it has already acted on public submissions on the port and rail proposals.

The latest review will end in early March, and Fortescue chief executive Andrew Forrest said the company will act promptly on relevant proposals.

The two environmental reviews are crucial to the prompt completion of the feasibility study and a ministerial go-ahead for the $1.85bn iron ore export project.

Environment checks for major infrastructure projects

A special compliance officer will monitor all major infrastructure projects in the Northern Territory, such as the Alice-Darwin railway, to ensure they comply with environmental requirements.

The Alice-Darwin railway has received some criticism since construction began over itsenvironmental record.

Complaints have centred around developer ADrail’s use of water and the impact of clearing on the Gouldian Finches habitat.

New environmental compliance officer Scott Whitney has started to work with ADrail to ensure allenvironmental guidelines are adhered to.

World Environment Day good time to remember rail

World Environment Day highlights the need for increased investment in rail, the Australasian Railways Association (ARA) claimed.

ARA president John Kirk said rail is an environmentally friendly form of transport.

Rail transport greenhouse gas emissions have declined 9% since 1990 and rail is over three times more energy efficient than trucks, he said.

He called on governments to reassess their land transport policies and increase investment in rail transport.