drought

KiwiRail supports NZ farmers struggling through drought

While New Zealand is having a significant drought, one of the worst in decades, farmers and rail operators have come together to deliver much needed grain to agricultural communities in Hawke’s Bay.

KiwiRail is currently transporting up to 10 40-foot containers full of hay from Ashburton on the South Island to Napier on the North Island. Each day from Wednesday, June 17 a wagon load of wrapped silage, a type of preserved fodder, will be transported north from Timaru.

KiwiRail group chief executive Greg Miller said that the initiative was about supporting KiwiRail’s customers.

“We move dairy products, beef, lamb, horticulture and viticulture for the rural sector so it is one of our most important customers, and we’re pleased to support it now at this time of need,” he said.

“We’ll carry the feed and we’ll carry the cost because everyone who’s seen the parched farmland can understand how hard this is on rural communities.”

The initiative began when Nicky Hyslop, a farmer near Timaru, recognised the need of farmers in the Hawke’s Bay region.

“We started making enquiries about how we could get it to Hawke’s Bay and it was looking really difficult until I got a call saying KiwiRail was offering to help. That was the game changer.”

Federated Farmers’ South Canterbury provincial president Jason Grant said that farmers in his region were donating where they could, and that the program wouldn’t be possible without KiwiRail’s assistance.

“Cartage is a big cost and it’s hugely appreciated that KiwiRail is donating space on their freight trains. We wouldn’t be able to do this otherwise and we appreciate it down here, as I know they do in Hawke’s Bay, too.”

Miller said that there was capacity for KiwiRail to help with the drought as freight volumes pick up following coronavirus (COVID-19).

“While our freight volumes are still recovering in the post-COVID period, we have some limited northbound capacity that we’ll be using when available, along with providing containers, to get this vital feed supply from Timaru and Ashburton up to Napier where it is needed.”

Industry calls for certainty on Inland Rail route

The Australian Logistics Council (ALC) has criticised last-ditch attempts to re-route the Inland Rail project from the Queensland border to Gowrie.

Another review of the controversial route over the Condamine River floodplain was confirmed in early June, with the so-called forestry route back on the table. The route, via Cecil Plains, was previously considered but ruled out in favour of the current route because of the extra length. ALC CEO Kirk Coningham said that previous reviews had already found the best route.

“With construction on the project already underway, some groups are now attempting to have changes on the Border to Gowrie section of the route. Despite the fact that extensive and independent analysis of corridor options has previously confirmed the route chosen in 2017 is the best option, there is now a further review taking place.”

The review of the forestry route is in addition to a review of the hydrology and flood modelling of the current route, which is being conducted by an independent expert panel.

An extended route would limit the effectiveness of the entire Inland Rail route, said Coningham.

“The whole point of constructing Inland Rail is to provide a safe and efficient freight rail link for Australia’s east coast that permits a transit time of 24 hours or less for freight between Melbourne and Brisbane. Altering the route to the more complex one being advocated by some will make travel times longer and will make construction a more complicated and costly exercise,” he said.

“At a time when Australia should be moving ahead with shovel-ready infrastructure projects that can deliver economic development and employment opportunities for communities, it is disappointing that those benefits are being delayed by another review process.”

A recent study of the Inland Rail route found that the line would create a long-term benefit of $2.9-3.1 billion to gross regional product and 560-590 full time equivalent jobs in the 10th year of operations.

“ALC calls on all parties to respect the findings of this latest review once it is concluded, so that certainty is maintained and this once-in-a-generation freight rail project can start delivering benefits for local workers, businesses, exporters, and consumers,” said Coningham.

Further scholarships awarded as part of Inland Rail

Four undergraduate scholarships worth up to $20,000 each have been awarded to Charles Sturt University students and three scholarships worth the same amount have been awarded to La Trobe University students.

The scholarships are part of the Inland Rail Skills Academy program which aims to enables students who live close to the rail alignment to undertake study and grow into careers that will enrich the regions, said Inland Rail director community & environment Rebecca Pickering.

“These scholarships, and any employment opportunities they unlock, will act as a catalyst for positive change in many regional communities along the Inland Rail project alignment,” said Pickering.

The scholarships cover costs such as accommodation, equipment, relocation, as well as daily necessities. ¬¬¬

associations

Global railway associations highlight post-COVID mobility improvements

A trio of global railway associations have noted that rail is part of the solution to the linked crises of climate change and coronavirus (COVID-19).

In a joint statement, the associations highlight how mobility is key to creating trade and prosperity, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In Europe, rail accounts for 7.6 per cent of passenger and 17.6 per cent of freight transport, while only producing 0.5 per cent of the continent’s greenhouse gas emissions.

During the COVID-19 crisis, rail also provided an essential service, by enabling the movement of essential workers and crucial goods.

Noting that the current ways of doing business are not enough in future, the International Union of Railways (UIC), the International Association for Public Transport (UITP), and the European Rail Industry Association (UNIFE), set out areas where mobility will need to be improved, committing to a sense of urgency in updating transportation.

“Railways have demonstrated their resilience and their capacity to deliver essential services even in these difficult circumstances. We all know that railway and public transport are the key for a sustainable future, provided that they are able to implement seamless multimodal mobility networks,” said François Davenne, UIC director general.

The three primary areas for change are customer experience, increased capacity, and an increased recognition of the importance of collective travel on rail rather than in individual vehicles. Technologies such as flow management to adapt to consumer patters, the design of intelligent infrastructure networks to optimise existing systems, and autonomous rail vehicles are identified as areas for rail to pursue.

Together, the associations welcomed work done by the EU to boost rail travel, but also pointed to the need to continue to invest in infrastructure, rollingstock, and research to meet future challenges, said Philippe Citroen, UNIFE director general.

“UNIFE believes that the [European Commission]’s recent Multiannual Financial Framework and Next Generation EU proposals are powerful recovery instruments that can help complete EU Green Deal objectives, but they must be mobilised for the decarbonisation of European transportation. This is only possible through a greater multimodal mobility shift with rail at its backbone.”

Recognising the value of public transport will be indispensable to ensuring the resilience of cities in the future said Mohamed Mezghani, UITP secretary general.

“Public transport and the environment are inextricably linked and with a strong local network, emissions are lowered and our cities become healthier and more sustainable.”

NSW government highlights rail manufacturer using recycled materials

The NSW government has once again returned to the regional town of Albury to highlight a local manufacturer supplying innovative sustainable materials to the infrastructure and construction industries.

NSW Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW, Industry and Trade John Barilaro said that industrial innovation was occurring at the Albury plant to develop a new, sustainable geotextile.

“Geofabrics’ groundbreaking product is a great example of regional excellence and shows exactly what our skilled regional workforce can achieve when given the conditions to succeed.”

The company had previously been producing a wide range of geotextiles that are used in rail and construction projects to seal and stabilise soil and control liquids. In 2019, Barilaro highlighted the company to a visiting group of international delegates, however the Deputy Premier has returned to Albury to showcase a new product from Geofabrics. The company has succeeded in developing a  product that is made from locally sourced recycled plastics.

Known as Bidim Green, the new geotextile responds to calls for increased sustainability in major infrastructure projects, said Dennis Grech, CEO and managing director of Geofabrics Australasia.

“Many infrastructure projects are calling for improved sustainability and we’re the only Australian manufacturer in the market here that is using recycled Australian plastics as a component of a geotextile, helping to reduce waste to landfill,” he said.

The product closes the loop in terms of plastics in Australia, by providing a way to re-use plastic bottles and containers locally, said Barilaro.

“This is a company that’s been operating in regional NSW for more than 30 years, with a staff that is proud to go to work each day and create world-leading products that make an absolute difference to the quality and convenience of our everyday lives.”

Adding value

City Rail Link has redefined sustainability for the delivery of rail infrastructure projects.

The importance of embedding sustainability into a rail project from the outset may seem like an addition to the many other concerns that beset a rail infrastructure project in its early stages. However, incorporating sustainability outcomes at the beginning can have a significant impact. Even when taking the asset’s 100-year lifecycle – excluding traction power – into account, the embodied carbon in materials and use of energy in construction make up 47 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. (this figure comes from the first two contract packages – C1 and C2 – of Auckland’s City Rail Link (CRL).

From the formation of City Rail Link Limited, the crown entity jointly funded by Auckland Council and the New Zealand government, sustainability was core to the project, said Liz Root, principal sustainability advisor to the project. At the start, sustainability was on par with the other major elements of the project when Root joined the project six years ago.

“We were relatively small team of discipline project managers, all as peers, and sustainability was one of the things that we as a project were doing,” said Root.

Having come from the building and construction industry, Root was familiar with the array of codes, guidelines, and ratings, which could certify a building and construction project’s sustainability, but in moving to infrastructure, there was not the same kind of background understanding of the importance of sustainability in a project’s delivery. Early conversations in the project team focused on what sustainability meant for an infrastructure project. Although this could be seen as a disadvantage, for CRL this meant that the project team could redefine sustainability to be appropriate for their context.

New Zealand has a commitment to net zero carbon emissions by 2050, and Auckland Council has a target of zero waste to landfill by 2040. Root and the sustainability team used these goals to help define the project’s own sustainability objectives.

‘We are using the Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia (ISCA)’s Infrastructure Sustainability (IS) framework as a verification tool. It was a case of working with our wider project team to really understand if we just carried on as we were, where might we sit, where might our sustainability performance fall, and where can we stretch ourselves?” said Root.

These discussions were occurring as the first two contracts, C1 and C2, were progressing to early contractor involvement (ECI). Now, as the C3 stations and tunnels contracts are underway, sustainability has been embedded in the project.

“The journey has continued, and our thinking has evolved and enabled us to build an enhanced suite of requirements and expectations into the contracts,” said Root.

CRL has five focus areas within its sustainability strategy – reducing resource consumption, zero waste to landfill, social outcomes, Mana Whenua outcomes, and governance and reporting. Having begun from defining what sustainability means for the project, having these target areas within the IS framework can enable the project to provide measurable outcomes on sustainability, something that Root describes as an evolution for sustainability in infrastructure.

“Ten to fifteen years ago, sustainability was seen as full of tree huggers and hippies, and as something that was an expense, and for me, it’s been really important that the work we do is really tangible and that we calculate and demonstrate the benefits of what we’re working to do,” said Root.

“That is where the IS framework comes in. We’re setting ourselves targets in this space and challenging ourselves to reduce our footprint, to reduce our waste and here’s an independent industry body that can verify the work that we’re doing.”

Concept design of the interior of CRL’s Karangahape station incorporating traditional Māori designs and narratives.

WORKING TOWARDS OUTCOMES
While the IS Framework is an important part of CRL’s sustainability strategy, Root highlights that the tool itself is not the goal.

“I’ve worked with rating tools in the built environment and infrastructure in the UK, Australia and NZ, with mixed feelings, and from a sustainability practitioner point of view, the rating tool is not really the end point, you want to deliver better outcomes, and deliver the project as efficiently and effectively as you can.”

This approach led to CRL using the ISCA verification tool to quantify outcomes.

“We want a particular performance in the IS rating to demonstrate that we’re at a particular level in our sustainability performance. We’ve already said resource consumption and zero waste to landfill are really important so we’re going to focus our contractors on those parts of the tools, as well as the additional criteria around those areas, and ensure that it gets verified at the highest level of performance.”

Another area for CRL was making sure that the project reflected Mana Whenua cultural principles. While in NZ, under the Resources Management Act (RMA), projects such as CRL are required to engage with local Māori iwi or tribes. Since 2012, CRL had adopted a more in-depth form of collaboration with eight iwi in the Auckland area. This partnership has been structured through the Mana Whenua Forum, which is formalised in the project’s legally binding consent conditions. With CRL having adopted the IS Framework, Root was invited to present to the Forum on the project’s sustainability focus.

“At these types of presentations, people normally politely listen to what you’re saying and ask you the odd question or nod along. At the Mana Whenua Forum, I mentioned using the IS Framework, and it was not the polite nods and smiles and the odd question it was – I’m paraphrasing – ‘What are you thinking using an Australian framework?’” said Root.

“Australians are not known for their reputation of engaging well with their Indigenous people, so I came away from that meeting thinking, ‘What are we going to do?’ but it was really the start of something fantastic. It was the start of numerous conversations, numerous hui [meetings] where I was sharing detail on the IS Framework, and actually going into some of the technical nuances around the criteria. It was a two-way process where Mana Whenua shared their world view.”

These discussions have led to the project embracing Māori principles of Kaitiakitanga, which covers ensuring the welfare of the people and the environment, while also fulfilling spiritual and emotional responsibilities to the environment and protecting, restoring, and enhancing the Māori view of the interconnectedness of living and non-living things. These principles then informed an adaptation of the IS Framework, which is one of the first in the world to incorporate indigenous cultural values. Within the project, the positive relationship with Mana Whenua has led to the design of stations and surrounding precincts incorporating cultural narratives. The project won international architectural awards for doing so, while also defining a process by which other projects could more deeply engage with their social and cultural context.

“Now other projects might use the same process that we used to engage with their local iwi around how their cultural considerations could be incorporated. The precedent that we set is a process of collaboration,” said Root.

CRL’s collaboration with iwi through the Mana Whenua Forum provided another lens to analyse the project, in a similar way to how the sustainability team are able to appraise work on CRL. As Root describes, having these lenses can add value to an infrastructure project.

“We are really trying to do things better, more efficiently, and more effectively. It’s a slightly different lens and some of the value is actually maybe a different way of thinking.”

Rather than an add on, sustainability within the CRL has been a tool for the project to achieve better outcomes.

“I don’t think we’re ever trying to tell an engineer how to do their job, but instead we are saying can you achieve the same outcome with a bit less waste. For example, those temporary piles that we’re designing, is that something that can get removed afterwards for reuse rather than being buried?”

With sustainability sitting at the top as an overarching goal for the project, part of the challenge is to ensure this thinking percolates down into the contractors and subcontractors who carry out the project. Root has been enthused to see this happening at all levels of the project.

“They’re suddenly doing a rejig of the C1 office space as the project changes and I’m there ready to ask that question again, ‘What are you going to do if you don’t need the desks or the chairs anymore?’ and they’ve already connected with a community group and it goes to charities to help them with their office space.”

Materials salvaged from office blocks and factories being demolished for the project have been shipped to the Pacific Kingdom of Tonga for re-use, and one of Auckland’s last remaining 19th century cottages was saved from demolition and transported to a new site 70 kilometres away.

Achieving this, however, begins at the most fundamental level, highlighted Root.

“It starts with procurement.You make it really clear in your contract what you want and, having worked in construction in the past, some of the contractors would think we don’t actually need to worry about sustainability because the client doesn’t check. We, CRL, have been a team that cares. We care about the reporting and if you look at our statement of intent and our statement of performance expectations, which are our governance documents, we report to our sponsors on sustainability outcomes.”

Just as the project looks to deliver 100 years of safe, electrically powered mobility for Auckland, the project’s scale means that in construction, it can have many generations of impact.

“We’re trying to share the learnings and talk about what value has been created so that other people can see the value in delivering infrastructure sustainably, creating a new ‘normal’. With the scale of CRL, we’re also impacting a significant portion of the infrastructure supply chain and seeing them upskill. Making it easier for the supply chain to deliver things more sustainably is a positive legacy for CRL, with benefits for the contracting industry and the wider community as well,” said Root.

Bombardier

Filling the gap

Bombardier is helping rail operators achieve zero emissions on unelectrified track with its battery electric units while slashing lifecycle costs.

One of the key benefits of rail travel to the community is its low emissions. Whether powered via overhead lines or an electrified rail, trains offer fast, high volume mobility, and if powered by renewable energy, emissions free. That is, until the wire runs out.

In Australia, nationally there is 36,064 kilometres of track, but only a small portion of that in the major cities has an overhead power supply. In New Zealand, out of the total 4,128 kilometres of track, 589km is electrified. As the non-electrified sections of the network are often outside of major urban centres, getting regional travellers to travel by train presents the issue of running higher emitting vehicles, or undertaking costly electrification works on lines that have fewer services. These factors present an impediment to the zero emissions potential of rail transport, however one that is recently being overcome.

Launched in 2018, the Bombardier TALENT 3 train is a battery-electric multiple unit to fill the gap in-between electrification of entire rail networks and continued reliance on diesel-powered units. The TALENT 3 train can provide an operator with a 30 per cent reduction in the total cost of ownership, when compared to a conventional diesel multiple unit over a 30-year service life. The train is powered by Bombardier MITRAC traction batteries and can run on non-electrified lines for distances of up to 100km. The batteries utilise recent technological innovation in fast charging and high-density lithium ion batteries which can be charged in less than 10 minutes while running on an electrified section of track, or through recuperating otherwise lost energy when the train is braking.

The research and development work that went into the TALENT 3 train was supported by the German federal government, research institutions, and regional German transport operators. Additionally, the technology behind the train was developed by Bombardier in its Mannheim laboratory in Germany. The newly inaugurated €1 million ($1.72m) facility contributed to the battery components for the TALENT 3 train. In Europe, the demand for battery electric units is increasing, as shown in recent orders for trials of the trains in multiple countries.

In Germany, the innovation involved in the development and production of the TALENT 3 train was recognised in late 2018, when Bombardier won the Berlin Brandenburg innovation award. In particular the jury singled out the role that battery electric trains could provide to Germany’s non electrified network. The train could already operate on 30 per cent of the country’s non-electrified lines, and if cost- effective electrification was done at end points, 75 per cent of lines that currently run diesel-powered services could be operated with battery power.

Commenting on the project, Bombardier’s head of sales – Australia and New Zealand, Todd Garvey, highlighted how the train would overcome network limitations.

“It was Bombardier’s goal to develop a quiet and eco-friendly train for passengers, while also offering operators the best alternative to higher emittting diesel trains on both cost and safety aspects.”

In Australia and New Zealand, where there are already proposals for the electrification of sections of regional and intercity track, the Bombardier TALENT 3 train could readily operate on lines such as the Hunter Line, a variety of V/Line services in Victoria, and partially electrified sections of track in New Zealand. However, the flexibility of battery- electric trains enables new connections to be made.

“The BEMU – as we call it – has massive potential in the ANZ market as the cost barriers to deploy widescale electrification are considerable.

“Our BEMU provides operators and governments with a zero-emission alternative to diesel propelled vehicles across their extended networks. Once the electric line runs out, the batteries kick in and the vehicle can continue running as normal for up to 100 kilometres.

“The only additional infrastructure then would be strategically placed charging stations throughout the regional network that the vehicle can plug into, to recharge the battery,” said Garvey.

“This presents big savings and reduces the need for a large-scale civil works program. These battery trains are also quieter, and this is good in greenfield residential areas, for example, where diesel trains might not be the preferred option.”

The key to realising the benefits of battery trains is their flexibility. Not only do they reduce a network’s total emissions but eliminate the immediate impact of emissions caused by the trains themselves. Emissions from diesel powered vehicles can limit their use in inner city areas and confined spaces such as tunnels. In addition, Bombardier’s TALENT 3 can achieve a significant reduction in noise, when compared to conventional DMUs.

Combining the latest in battery technology and a pedigree of innovation, the TALENT 3 provides zero emissions mobility to a much wider audience.

Major projects

Community engagement key to rail project success

The successful delivery of the $150 billion rail infrastructure pipeline is at risk if community engagement best practices are adhered to, a new report from Infrastructure Partnerships Australia (IPA) has found.

With $20bn worth of infrastructure delayed or cancelled due to community opposition in the last decade, the current acceleration of infrastructure investment will need to take local attitudes into account.

Chief executive of IPA, Adrian Dwyer, said that rail has particular issues to confront in the construction and operation of infrastructure.

“Even though the construction impacts of a project may be short-term in nature, the long-term operational impacts of rail infrastructure means that social licence needs to be thought about early and often.”

The report, produced in partnership with LEK Consulting, found that to be effective, community consultation and engagement needed to be embedded throughout the project and be an active ingredient in decision-making processes.

Two major rail projects were highlighted for their effective engagement with community. The report noted that the active involvement of the community in the design of Sydney Metro and the Level Crossing Removal Project were best practice examples.

“The Level Crossing Removal and Sydney Metro projects have shown how extensive community engagement, underpinned by clear and simple messaging and genuine opportunities for co-design, can build trust and win over communities to the value of a project,” said Dwyer.

In both cases, community input led to changes in the design of the project, ongoing works were communicated clearly, and, where there was community opposition as in the case of the Level Crossing Removal Project, the benefits and costs were honestly communicated.

These case studies demonstrated the unique dynamics that rail projects will have to grapple with as further major projects are announced.

“The linear and long-term nature of rail infrastructure means the impacts are highly localised to rail corridors and station locations while the benefits are diffuse,” said Dwyer.

Achieving sustainability

Australia’s largest rail infrastructure project, Inland Rail and Australia’s largest rail freight operator, Aurizon, share how they’re meeting sustainability targets.

Successful management of sustainability- related targets requires a collaborative effort. Once the 1,700km rail network is complete, Inland Rail will be the backbone of Australia’s national freight rail network. The scale and the significance of the project creates an opportunity to set new benchmarks and standards in environmental and socio- economic performance.

Similarly, as the operator of a rail network distributed across regional Australia, Aurizon’s has the potential to contribute to sustainability in the communities in which it operates. The company’s sustainability strategy sets out that it aims to achieve resilience and resourcefulness through the transportation of bulk goods and commodities. While environmental strategies are an essential focus for both Aurizon and Inland Rail’s network, social sustainability is key facet of their approach to sustainability.

Most directly, social sustainability is promoted by both network managers in the design, maintenance and construction of rail track and associated infrastructure. As Inland Rail is transitioning from the design phase to construction, the company is primarily focused on benefiting regional towns along the alignment over the next stages of the project. Meanwhile, Aurizon is ensuring it is sustaining employment and enhancing businesses in the non-metropolitan areas of its rail network.

Creating opportunities for the development of a skilled local workforce through construction and operation is helping to deliver key national priorities for infrastructure and economic policy. In Inland Rail and Aurizon’s respective rail transport system, linking communities and strengthening the rail and national supply chain industries go hand in hand.

INLAND RAIL’S SUSTAINABLE PRIORITIES
Richard Wankmuller, Inland Rail CEO, stated in last year’s annual sustainability report that Inland Rail’s focus on social, environmental, and economic sustainability ensures the organisation is continuously striving to deliver the best possible outcomes for communities and the natural environment. Wankmuller acknowledged in the 2018-19 report that the once-in-a-generation rail project is only in its early phase, enabling Inland Rail to provide a unique opportunity to influence the effectiveness, benefits, and outcomes from its model for future rail infrastructure.

With the first stage of construction of the 103km Parkes to Narromine project expected to be completed in mid-2020, the billions of dollars invested to create the Brisbane to Melbourne rail freight network is also an investment for local communities and affected landowners to mitigate long-term economic and environmental impacts and create ongoing community benefits. With the separate sections of Inland Rail’s alignment at under varying stages of development, going forward, the sustainability program will commence annual public reporting of environmental and socio- economic benefits realised during the design and construction of the program.

According to Rebecca Pickering, Inland Rail director of engagement, environment, and property, Inland Rail is aiming to establish a new sustainability benchmark for environmental and socio-economic performance for Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) operations and the rail industry more widely. “Our engineers don’t need prompting about Inland Rail’s sustainability opportunities. Largely in this design phase, the team is driving smarter and innovative strategies that have never been seen in the industry before,” she said.

Pickering credits the wider strategic business framework of Inland Rail for empowering regional and local communities to take advantage of the thousands of jobs and millions of dollars of procurement that will be generated during construction of the Inland Rail alignment. “To achieve our vision, we need to be innovative, agile and global in our thinking. Sustainability provides a framework to drive and support this culture,” she said.

Pickering said the environmental, social, and cultural outcomes are of equal importance to Inland Rail’s economic objectives. “We’ve already achieved success in managing impacts and creating connectivity in regional communities. A major chunk of recent success is the ability to provide sustainable jobs, which has been crucial during the current state of the economy,” she said. At the peak of construction, Inland Rail will create more than 16,000 direct and indirect jobs. An additional 700 ongoing jobs will be created once Inland Rail is operational. Pickering said $89 million has been spent with local businesses on-top of wages and every stage of construction is another opportunity to improve engagement and achieve ongoing sustainability.

“Not everything is set in stone, it’s a changing landscape so it’s super exciting and inspiring to connect so many regional communities. Recycling of materials, further consultation, and exceeding sustainability requirements are a focus as our strategies evolve,” Pickering said.

AURIZON’S SUSTAINABLE FUTURE
Aurizon’s reporting of its environmental, social, and financial sustainability has given an insight into how the ASX-listed company is managing the impact of a widely dispersed railway network throughout central Queensland. According to its 2019 sustainably report, Aurizon is committed to continuing its strong track record in supporting a highly efficient and globally competitive supply chain for Australian commodity exports, especially for coal. Aurizon takes a direct approach to reporting environmental, social and governance (ESG) disclosures to stakeholders with the publication of its annual Sustainability Report. In August 2019, Aurizon maintained a ‘Leading’ rating for the fifth consecutive year from the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI) for corporate sustainability reporting in Australia. Having received this rating for over four consecutive years, Aurizon has again been considered a ‘leader’ by ACSI, along with 45 other ASX200 companies.

Andrew Harding, Aurizon CEO and managing director said it’s important that the company creates a business that is not only strong commercially and performs well for customers, but also plays a positive role in the regional communities. “It is a genuine demonstration that while we develop our business and operations to ensure the company’s ongoing success, it is the strength, resilience and resourcefulness of our people that are key to our sustainability,” Harding stated in the opening to Aurizon’s most recent sustainability report.

An Aurizon spokesperson said the company’s current priority and focus is sustainably managing the business through the COVID-19  pandemic.“Understanding our material impacts is necessary to develop our strategy and operate sustainably, and that addressing these impacts is key in creating sustainable value for our stakeholders,” the spokesperson said.

Sustainability is central to Aurizon’s response to the current challenging times. “Our core value is safety, and Aurizon has implemented a range of proactive and practical measures to protect the health and safety of employees as well as provide business continuity to our customers. We cannot achieve operational performance objectives or maintain our social licence to operate unless we ensure the safety of our employees, our contractors, and our communities,” the spokesperson said.

Aurizon reset its strategic framework in 2018. Since the re-modelling to ensure the sustainable success of the business, the new Strategy in Action framework has been driving focus in Aurizon’s short-term activity within a framework of what is required for long-term growth and success. “We strive to ensure that our sustainability framework reflects significant economic, environmental, and social priorities that may influence strategic decision-making or have significant impacts on our business and our key stakeholders. As such, we continuously assess the material issues that affect our business, our stakeholders, and our operating environment,” the spokesperson said.

In taking a broad approach to sustainability, both Aurizon and Inland rail demonstrate the importance of resilient freight rail transport networks to the ongoing vitality of regional communities.

Curfew suspensions for freight should be permanent: ALC

The Australian Logistics Council (ALC) has called upon state and territory governments to make temporary curfew suspensions permanent.

The curfews were lifted in the early days of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic to enable logistics and transport operators to rapidly restock supermarket shelves that were emptied due to panic buying.

ALC CEO Kirk Coningham said that the past months had proven the benefits of relaxed curfews.

“As governments turn their minds to policy actions that will drive economic recovery, the removal of curfews is an obvious opportunity that will be of lasting benefit to the freight and logistics sector and to all Australian communities,” he said.

“The most visible manifestation of the COVID-19 crisis for many Australians was the sight of supermarket shelves that had been stripped bare due to panic buying. The single most effective government action taken to address this challenge did not involve massive expenditure, but the stroke of a ministerial pen.”

While the curfew suspensions primarily applied to trucks making deliveries to supermarkets outside of regular hours, freight rail also has limits on movements imposed by noise restrictions.

Coningham said that removing curfews had a role to play in ensuring freight networks operated efficiently outside of crisis periods.

“This includes removing curfews on overnight deliveries to supermarkets and other retail premises, removing bans on heavy vehicles using particular routes, removing curfews on port operations and the removal of airport noise curfews that inhibit the movement of air freight.”

The ALC also highlighted that a number of behavioural changes, such as changes to public transport usage and the increased adoption of home delivery services meant that curfews no longer made sense.

“As physical distancing requirements mean fewer Australians use public transport, road congestion in our major cities will be a major challenge. Removing curfews that prevent overnight deliveries will allow freight operators to schedule more tasks during off-peak periods,” said Coningham.

“Similarly, increasing demand for home delivery of essential items including groceries is likely to be an enduring feature of supply chains post-COVID. The removal of curfews will give logistics operators and their customers greater capacity and flexibility when using the road network to meet this growth in demand.”