LINX Cargo Care Group enables new transport avenue to Central West with LINX Intermodal terminal expansion

LINX Cargo Care Group has enabled a new arterial avenue for Australia’s grain farmers in the Central West with the recent expansion of services from its LINX Intermodal Terminal, part of the Enfield Intermodal Logistics Centre.

LINX Cargo Care Group is now partnering with CWLT Logistics to enable new services between Sydney and Bathurst, with Forbes next in line. As part of the Terminal’s expansion, LINX Cargo Care Group has opened on-site fumigation services to streamline the process from ports to rail and reduce traffic, while enabling aligned service provider ACFS Port Logistics (ACFS) to undertake rural and regional tailgate inspections at the terminal.

“The LINX Intermodal Terminal is becoming a one-stop shop for Australia’s supply chain backbone, enabling greater sustainability, reduced traffic and improved rail access between the Central West and Sydney,” said Carlo Cutinelli, Executive General Manager Customer & Business Development at LINX Cargo Care Group. “The continued investment from LINX Cargo Care Group as well as NSW Ports into the infrastructure both at the LINX Intermodal Terminal and the ports is paying off, with our farmers the first to benefit.”

Grain farmers in the Central West will be the key early beneficiaries of the Sydney to Bathurst service and rural tailgate inspection services, with a quicker turnaround to the ports now possible. Driven by above-average rainfall between March and August, NSW is expected to lead a bumper harvest with winter crop production in the state predicted to rise 49 per cent above the 10-year average to 2019-20.

Those farmers will now have a quicker path to the ports with LINX’s upgraded services and expanded Terminal operations.

“This is further streamlining the supply chain between Australia’s heartland and key export markets, and it’s also reducing the impacts of traffic on regional roads and around the ports,” said Cutinelli.

The NSW Government’s Freight and Ports Plan 2018-2023 highlighted a plan to increase the road to rail share of rail freight at Port Botany to 28 per cent by 2021 and reduce the impact of truck movements around the ports. The expansion of capabilities at the LINX Intermodal Terminal will significantly reduce the impact of two-truck movements, as well as the overall number of trucks, around Botany.

ACFS Managing Director and CEO, Arthur Tzaneros says customers in NSW’s central west will benefit from the overall productivity and capability of the LINX Intermodal Terminal.

“With the support and alliance of many of the major shipping lines, upgrade and repair facilities, as well as the key strength of 3 x 900m tracks which allows for the service of 1.8m trains, this provides a distinct advantage in the LINX Intermodal Terminal service that will reap benefits for the Central West service, and its related customers,” said Tzaneros.

“Furthermore, customers can now also receive an end-to-end service on imports, further streamlining the port to rail process on the port shuttle that is serviced via the dedicated freight line, while complying with all relevant import regulations.”

LINX’s Fumigation, Tailgate Capabilities Reduce Truck Movements, Enable Sustainable Supply Chain

LINX’s fumigation services for imported containers – which meet the stringent safety, health, agricultural and environmental requirements from a host of stakeholders including Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, SafeWork NSW and Border Control – will remove the number of trucks from suburban roads around Port Botany by reducing two-truck movement.

“If a transport company needs to go and pick up a container from the port, they’ll have to pick it up from the port and then they will need to take it to a provider that does fumigation and generally they’re around Port Botany,” said Cutinelli. “Then they’ve got to drop the container off there and once the container is fumigated, vented, and cleared, they need to go back to that facility again, collect the container and then drop it off at their customer or bring it back to their depot and then deliver the container to the customer.

“With our service, we collect the container from the port, we bring it back to the LINX Intermodal Terminal, it goes directly off our train into the fumigation area. It gets fumigated, vented, cleared and then we can then get that container and put it directly into our subtenant’s yard or our customer comes and collects the box.

“We’re now able to clear up to 40 containers a day.”

A tailgate inspection involves a visual inspection of the inside of a container to see if there are insects, dirt, or grass. If any of these are found that could indicate the presence of pests which could affect agriculture, LINX now has the facilities in the LINX Intermodal Terminal for ACFS to be able to wash down a container.

“Our customer doesn’t worry about the container until it’s placed into the transition bay for onsite customers,” said Cutinelli. “They send us the booking and the next thing they know is the containers are put into the terminal, cleared, and in the transition bay or the location where they can come and collect it.”

New grain siding complete in Coonamble South

A new rail siding in Coonamble South has been installed, ready for the 2020/21 grain season.

The siding, located in the Central West of NSW, would improve grain movements from the interior of the state, said Minister for Regional Roads and Transport Paul Toole.

“Previously the positioning of the old mainline grain loading point at Coonamble caused delays for trains for up to eight hours, creating congestion and holding up the movement of grain to port,” Toole said.

“The new rail siding will create an extra 450 hours each year where trains can pass through this section of track without being held up.

The new location will also help shift further freight onto rail.

“It will also see the three grain loading points in Coonamble better utilised and potentially encourage the transporting of grain off roads and onto rail, reducing the impacts of heavy vehicles on the road network,” said Toole.

The siding was built with a $2.5 million investment as part of the NSW government’s Fixing Country Rail program, which is funding $400m worth of upgrades to support, reinvigorate, and upgrade regional freight infrastructure.

Member of the NSW upper house Sam Farraway said the upgrades will boost productivity and confidence in rail.

“These upgrades have multiple flow-on effects, including more time to access the wider network and port, alleviating the pressure to find space on the rail network to meet shipping schedules,” he said.

The siding was announced as receiving funding in February 2019.

Revised MBRP business case drops standardisation of Sea Lake and Manangatang lines

The Victorian government has released the revised business case for the Murray Basin Rail Project and dropped the project’s initial goal of standardising the region’s freight network.

The long-awaited business case outlines the way forward for the troubled project, which halted in mid-2019 due to a lack of funds.

With stage one delivered and stage 2 partially delivered, the Murrayville and Yelta lines were standardised and the Maryborough to Ararat line reopened as standard gauge. The Sea Lake and Manangatang lines remained broad gauge, and the revised business case proposes to continue this split.

Victorian Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan said that the Victorian government was disappointed that funding for the project was not included in the 2020 federal budget, and was the only project on the state government’s wishlist of projects to not receive funding.

“This project is too important to play politics with – we want the Commonwealth to come forward with their support so we can get more freight on trains and more trucks off regional roads.”

To complete the revised scope of works, the Victorian government has announced they will commit $48.8 million and are asking the federal government to contribute $195.2m.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said that the federal government had already contributed $240m to the project and that project errors were the responsibility of the Victorian government.

“It is important to remember that the Victorian Labor government was responsible for delivering this project and actively chose to lay 100-year-old steel as part of its ‘upgrade,” he said.

“I look forward to hearing the views of industry and communities on the proposal and document released yesterday by the Victorian government.

The report notes that the time and cost of delivering the project to its original scope has now increased and there is greater potential for conflict with passenger services in the standardisation of the Gheringhap to Ballarat section and the Ballarat corridor.

The Rail Freight Alliance (RFA), a grouping of councils pushing for more freight to be handled by rail, said in a statement that the revised business case amounted to fixing problems caused by the initial works.

“What it appears Minister Allan has announced today is repairs to the shoddy and substandard work that has hampered this project from the inception. Rerailing the section of line between Maryborough and Ararat that was done as part of the project in 2017 with some sections of century old rail and putting back some staging areas that were removed as part of the MBRP only a few years ago.”

Works to be immediately completed under the revised business case include re-railing 88km on the Ararat to Maryborough line, where old rail was re-used, signalling works at Ararat Junction and Maryborough Yard. Further works include passing loops, instituting electronic train ordering, resleepering, and improvements to sidings.

Minister for Ports and Freight Melissa Horne said that if funded, the project would increase export volumes.

“These works will boost our freight network’s capacity and efficiency to get more Victorian products exported. We just need the Commonwealth to come to the table with their support.”

Canberra COVID

Election results keep rail on track in ACT and NZ

Election results over the weekend have reconfirmed the pipeline of rail projects on both sides of the Tasman.

In the ACT, where the Labor-Greens coalition government was returned with a likely increased number of representatives in the legislative assembly, future progress on the Canberra light rail is confirmed.

Prior to the election the opposition Liberals had cast doubt over the second stage of the project, suggesting that a connection to Belconnen should be built instead of the currently planned extension to Woden. ACT Labor has said that once the extension to Woden is complete, work will begin on a line from Belconnen to the Airport.

Public Transport Association of Canberra chair Ryan Hemsley said that light rail was a key election issue in the capital.

“Saturday’s election results have re-confirmed the trends we saw four years ago, with strong swings towards the government in Murrumbidgee and Brindabella cementing light rail as a vote-winner,” said Hemsley.

“In contrast to the pro-light rail policies offered by Labor and the Greens, the Canberra Liberals offered half-hearted and at times inconsistent support for the extension of light rail to Woden.”

Light rail also made an appearance in the New Zealand election which saw the Labour Party returned with a parliamentary majority. The party, which had previously governed in a coalition with the Green Party and NZ First, has committed to progressing the Auckland light rail project from the city centre to Māngere and the Auckland Airport.

The party has committed to continue investing in KiwiRail, which has received large cash injections in recent budgets to improve New Zealand’s rail infrastructure and freight services. Upgrades to Wellington’s commuter rail network are also part of the party’s platform.

Under investment in Auckland’s rail network was revealed earlier this year and led to a city-wide restriction on services. The most recent works have seen a 10-minute frequency returned to the Eastern Line and improvements between Otahuhu and Newmarket on the Southern line. Further work on the Southern Line between Homai and Pukekohe will continue for the next three weeks.

KiwiRail chief operating officer Todd Moyle said works have been completed efficiently and on schedule.

“During the first closure on the Eastern Line the teams met their target of replacing 20 km of rail and more than 3500 sleepers on the 10km between Panmure and the city centre,” he said.

“We are continuing to work with Auckland Transport to review our progress and plan the way ahead. We have agreed a programme of rolling line closures across the network is the best and most efficient way to progress this work over the coming months. For the next month our focus will remain on the Southern Line.”

Further network closures are planned for the Christmas period when patronage decreases.

Final approvals passed for Narrabri to North Star Inland Rail

The environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Narrabri to North Star leg of Inland Rail has been approved, paving the way for construction to begin before the end of 2020.

The EIS is one of the final approvals required for the project, with the section already approved by NSW planning authorities.

The leg from Narrabri to North Star involves upgrading 186km of existing rail corridor and 2.3km of new track construction.

Inland Rail was one of 15 projects fast tracked under federal government regulation in June this year. This enabled the project to pass state and federal approvals quickly and be ready for construction sooner.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said that by passing this latest stage in approval, more benefits could flow to the communities along the alignment.

“Inland Rail will play a key role in getting our economy back on track because it means more people in jobs and it means more productivity for so many industries and local businesses,” he said.

“On the Parkes to Narromine section, 1,800 jobs were supported and more than $109 million was spent with 99 local businesses – we’re looking forward to seeing Northern New South Wales enjoy similar benefits soon with construction on this section starting later this year.”

Federal member for Parkes, Mark Coulton, said that the experience of the recently completed first stage, from Parkes to Narromine, would indicate how the next sections would play out.

“The first recently completed section – Parkes to Narromine – provided a significant boost to businesses across a range of industries, including concrete supply, transportation, fencing, earthmoving, accommodation, hospitality and security in what has been a difficult time for many rural businesses with drought, fires and now COVID-19,” he said.

“Northern NSW has a proud history of agricultural excellence – the long term benefits of this transformational project will better connect our region to east coast ports and create new supply chains to better move the produce and products we are famous for.”

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann highlighted that Inland Rail is one of the nationally significant infrastructure projects that hopes to restart the economy after COVID-19.

“Inland Rail will support more than 5,000 jobs in New South Wales during construction and as each section is completed, more fast and reliable rail services will become available to industry and regional producers across Australia,” Minister Cormann said.

“Large scale infrastructure projects are a key driver of growth – driving investment, boosting economic development, creating many news jobs and opportunities for local businesses.”

Optimism in infrastructure sector on post-COVID future

There is broad optimism in the infrastructure sector that the pipeline of work will continue and the shocks felt during COVID will not be long lasting.

Speakers at the National Infrastructure Summit highlighted that while there were some short term impacts during the height of COVID-19, the sector has largely been able to continue and is looking towards future projects.

CEO of Infrastructure Australia, Romilly Madew, summarised that the sector’s response to COVID-19 by setting up COVIDsafe worksites, cutting off access to overseas and interstate staff, and some supply chain issues meant a drop of 50 per cent in productivity during the peak COVID-19.

However, unprecedented collaboration between senior officials in the public and private sector meant that sites remained open in Australia, unlike in other jurisdictions, which ensured optimism and that there was flexibility around meeting contractual obligations that prevented projects from grinding to a halt.

This focus on ensuring business continuity and optimism was echoed by NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, who said that during the pandemic the state government’s focus was ensuring works could continue.

“Not only are we a COVID safe environment to operate but one of the few places where business continuity is assured,” Berejiklian said. “I think we can feel optimistic about the future of the infrastructure pipeline in NSW.”

What shape the infrastructure pipeline will be was a point of discussion, particularly following the federal budget. Federal Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure Alan Tudge said the government’s focus was on projects that could begin in the next 12-18 months, and that was why there were no new mega projects in this year’s budget.

Despite this, Marion Terrill, transport and cities program director at the Grattan Institute, noted that the size of the infrastructure pipeline is still growing, with the amount of work underway in the public sector having doubled over the past five years, and the average size of projects is twice the value of projects over the previous five years.

The shift to smaller projects and upgrading existing assets such as roads and rail lines also reflected an uncertainty about what travel patterns will look like once Australia emerges from COVID-19, said CEO of Infrastructure Victoria, Michel Masson. Masson said the large transport projects which were popular up to COVID-19 may not be the right projects if demand changes.

Amid these larger trends, infrastructure builders and operators were dealing with their own challenges. CEO of Pacific National Dean Dalla Valle noted that state government regulatory changes to allow high performance vehicles through city centres to access ports was undermining the goals of these governments to shift more freight onto rail. Resetting the imbalance in fees and charges between road and rail freight would ensure that infrastructure assets are more efficiently used, with benefits for the wider community.

Aurizon targets net zero operational emissions by 2050

Aurizon will invest $50m in low carbon locomotives such as battery and hydrogen-powered trains to meet a net zero goal by 2050.

The freight hauler and network owner will also look to maximise the benefits of the electrified freight network in Queensland, particularly as more renewable energy is fed into the grid.

Managing director and CEO of Aurizon, Andrew Harding said that the company was confident that technology would meet the company’s goals.

“We are confident that rapidly-advancing technology in the rail sector will unlock major benefits like we are seeing in motor vehicles, energy generation and general industry. Our focus will be low-carbon technology for our locomotive fleet which accounts for more than 90 per cent of Aurizon’s CO2 emissions.”

In addition to actions undertaken internally, Aurizon will also push for government action.

“We directly advocate for policy actions to increase the use of rail freight on key national freight corridors. Our aim is to ensure that rail freight remains competitive and part of the solution as the economy transitions to a low-carbon future,” said Harding.

The company’s commitment follows the latest Sustainability Report from the freight operator. In the report, Aurizon advocates for lowered electricity costs to reduce the risk of substituting electric locomotives for diesel-powered trains. In addition, Aurizon outlines that the company has been advocating for greater infrastructure investment, improvements to regulation and finding efficiencies at interfaces between modes.

To meet the goal of lower emissions, Aurizon said that it would be making significant investments in new rollingstock shortly.

“Aurizon is already working with other railroads and manufacturers on the early development of battery and hydrogen-powered locomotives for deployment in a heavy-haul railway environment. This includes options of upgrades to the existing fleet and new rollingstock. We would expect to see prototypes trialling on our network by 2025, as technology advances and costs come down further,” said Harding.

“Locomotives are long-life assets of 20 – 30 years. We have some significant decisions ahead in renewing our locomotive fleet – potential game-changers for the freight industry – when we invest in the next generations of rollingstock to power our business through to 2050.”

Farmers, councils criticise lack of funding for MBRP

Victorian farmers were disappointed that in last week’s federal budget there was no more funding for the Murray Basin Rail Project.

While a business case has reportedly been prepared for the resumption of upgrade works to standardise freight rail lines in the north-west of the state, the funding initially committed has run out and Victorian Farmers Federation David Jochinke said the project needs to continue.

“For the Murray Basin Rail Project to miss out on funding is incredibly disappointing,” Jochinke said.

“The onus is now on the Victorian government to show leadership and commit to funding the project as promised as we enter its sixth year of construction.”

In an interview with ABC radio Ballarat, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said it was up to the Victorian government to release the business case before federal funding could be committed.

“[The Victorian government] needs to come up with that business case to release it so that there’s full transparency, full accountability. The federal government has already contributed more than $240 million and I’m happy to continue to work with the Victorian government.”

The Rail Freight Alliance, a grouping of councils across Victoria, said that both governments needed to work together to ensure the project is completed.

“The Mexican standoff between the federal and Victorian government is a convenient out for both governments, it doesn’t solve the problem and leaves the people of Victoria and the nation poorer for it,” the group said in a statement.

The Rail Freight Alliance said the Murray Basin Rail Project was an ideal project to get the state’s economy moving again.

“This project ticks all the boxes, it’s shovel ready, will boost jobs, attract private investment, support businesses to recover and grow, enhance Victoria’s growing exports and freight task. Now is the time to invest in this nation building project.”

infrastructure

Infrastructure spend misses rail projects in Queensland, South Australia

In a pre-budget infrastructure announcement, the federal government has committed funding to rail projects in NSW, Victoria and Western Australia, but only provided funding for roads in other states, with Queensland’s only rail project a level crossing removal.

As part of a $7.5 billion spend on infrastructure, new federal funding alongside state contributions has been committed for further regional rail upgrades in Victoria, high capacity signalling in Western Australia, and planning for faster rail between Sydney and Newcastle. The funding announcement covers those projects put forward by state governments and not projects solely funded by the federal government.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said that local businesses would benefit.

“We will draw on local businesses to stimulate local economies through these projects,” he said.

In Victoria, rail projects received the bulk of the funding allocated to that state, with funding for new projects including stage three of the Shepparton Line upgrade and stage two of the Warrnambool line upgrade. Further planning for the Western Rail Plan, improving passenger rail services from northern Victoria, and a business case for improving connectivity to the Port of Melbourne also scored funding.

In NSW, rail projects to receive funding included $15 million for planning for Sydney to Newcastle Faster Rail. A faster rail business case has already been completed for the line and is being reviewed by the National Faster Rail Agency.

$150 million has been allocated for grade separating road interfaces with Inland Rail, along with a number of intermodal hubs, including at Ettamogah, near Albury, and the Northern NSW Inland Port at Narrabri. Commuter carparks in Sydney also received additional funding.

In Western Australia, federal funding of $102.3 million has been allocated for the High Capacity Signalling element of the Metronet project. Infrastructure Australia has added the project to its Infrastructure Priority List as a Priority Project, signalling its national significance.

The funding for WA also includes the first investigation into faster rail in the state, with $4m for an investigation of the Perth to Bunbury corridor.

$5m has also been allocated to the Kenwick Intermodal Terminal. WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said the funding would grow the amount of work in the state.

“We already have a pipeline of $6.5 billion of major road and rail works underway across Western Australia over the next two years – this will extend the pipeline of work and will continue to help the State economy through and past COVID-19.”

Besides the $50m in funding for the Beams Road overpass, the $1.3bn allocated to Queensland will be spent on roads. No funding will be spent on rail in South Australia, Tasmania, the ACT, and the Northern Territory.

Administrator of Queensland-based rail group Rail Back on Track Robert Dow listed 11 rail projects needing funding in the state, including improvements to the Sunshine Coast line, Ipswich rail extensions, and Salisbury to Beaudesert commuter rail.

“This is simply not sustainable,” said Dow. “We need a proper balance between rail and roads.”

Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Catherine King said that funding must follow through on the announcement.

“It is essential that these latest funding promises are delivered now, not years down the line.”

Maryvale

Maryvale rail siding upgrade keeping freight on rail

The Victorian government is investing $3.5 million in upgrade works to the Maryvale rail siding in Gippsland.

The siding is primarily used by freight trains hauling paper from Australian Paper’s Maryvale mill to Melbourne.

Minister for Ports and Freight Melissa Horne said the upgrade would ensure paper products continued to be transported via rail.

“This important upgrade will ensure Victoria’s busiest regional rail freight train continues to run and will support the jobs of 900 Gippsland workers,” she said.

“We’re keeping rail freight cost-effective and helping businesses like Australian Paper access key domestic and overseas markets.”

The upgrade will involve the replacement of sleepers and ballast, with ground resurfacing works also taking place. Ultimately, the works will increase the efficiency of the rail infrastructure by reducing maintenance expenditure, ensuring that rail remains competitive for Australian Paper.

Procurement will begin in early 2021 and construction should begin soon after that.

The funding for the project is part of the Victorian government’s COVID-19 response. In May, the government earmarked up to $90m for regional rail infrastructure upgrades.

“This work comes adds to the significant improvements to the signalling system in Morwell, which have already been completed – making it easier than ever to move freight through Gippsland,” said Member for Eastern Victoria Harriet Shing.

To connect freight trains to the main Gippsland line, an automated signalling system in Morwell has been installed, replacing manual processes and improving integration across the network.