Patrick and Port of Melbourne sign agreement for rail terminal at East Swanson Dock

Patrick Terminals and the Port of Melbourne have agreed to construct a new rail terminal to enable more freight to be delivered by rail to East Swanson Dock.

The new rail terminal, expected to be completed by mid 2023, will handle up to 200,000 TEUs annually, and provide a direct rail connection between the Port of Melbourne and suburban intermodal terminals, enabling more freight to be transported to and from the port via rail.

“The new facility will provide a direct interface with Patrick’s East Swanson Dock Container Terminal, reducing cost of last mile between the rail terminal and quayside for rail based container movements,” said Patrick CEO Michael Jovicic.

The announcement of the rail terminal is part of a wider push to get more freight onto rail at the Port of Melbourne. The Port of Melbourne is investing $125 million in on-dock rail as part of the Port Rail Transformation Project (PRTP) and this project is a significant part of that, said Brendan Bourke, CEO of the Port of Melbourne.

“The PRTP is a key project of our Port Development Strategy and Our Plan for Rail and is vital to successfully accommodating future growth at the port.”

In August, the Victorian and federal governments announced funding for a new freight rail connection in Melbourne’s South East.

The Victorian government is also providing funding for the Port Rail Shuttle network, which aims to reduce truck movements in metropolitan Melbourne by linking the port with intermodal facilities on the urban fringe.

“This new on dock rail terminal supports the introduction of the government’s Port Rail Shuttle Network, which will reduce truck trips on the Melbourne road network,” said Bourke.

The Patrick rail terminal will be constructed at the Coode Road site and is co-funded with the Port of Melbourne. Patrick is contributing $15m to the project.

Construction is expected to begin in early 2021 and the Port of Melbourne is currently undertaking a request for tender profess for the infrastructure works associated with the Port Rail Transformation Project.

Once complete, the terminal will include two dual gauge 23 tonne axle load sidings of 600 metres and interface with the Patrick international container terminal options.

The agreement is part of the extension of Patrick’s tenure at the Port of Melbourne to 2066. Maurice James, managing director of Qube which owns 50 per cent of Patrick, said in a statement to the ASX the project will enable more freight to be moved via rail.

“The development supports Patrick’s landside efficiency focus and is expected to facilitate the development of metro-based rail shuttle services over the medium term.”

Once complete, the Swanson Dock Rail Terminal will be an open access facility, in line with the Port of Melbourne rail access protocol, allowing Qube and other rail operators to use the facility.

Jovicic said that the terminal will be a key node in the Melbourne freight rail network once new intermodal facilities are completed.

“Over time, it is expected that rail modal share for will increase, with metro rail being a major driver of growth alongside the development of metropolitan inland terminals. Rail modal share and volumes on rail will be dependent on the take up of rail, particularly for metro container movements – which today are dominated by trucks.”

Aurizon coal wagons. Photo: Aurizon

Aurizon prevails in Wiggins Island appeal case

The Queensland Court of Appeal has dismissed an appeal by a group of miners over charges imposed by Aurizon for upgrades of the Wiggins Island Coal Export Terminal at the Port of Gladstone.

The decision is the latest in a court battle that has been running since March 2016, when Aurizon challenged the validity of notices by the miners who sought to reduce how much they would have to pay for the upgrades.

In a statement to the ASX, Aurizon welcomed the court’s decision.

“Today’s decision by the Queensland Court of Appeal means that the customers’ notices are invalid and Wiggins Island Rail Project (WIRP) Fees are payable to Aurizon.”

The company said that no revenue has been accrued for the above regulatory fees since the project was completed in 2015 and the decision does not impact Aurizon’s regulated return for the project.

In a separate Expert Determination process, it was stated that the WIRP fee should be reduced, and Aurizon indicated it is looking at options for appealing that outcome.

Aurizon, which manages the central Queensland coal network in addition to its above rail operations, invested roughly $800 million in the WIRP. However, since completing the WIRP in 2015, coal prices have dropped significantly, leading to the miners seeking to reduce their costs.

With some of the original owners of the Wiggins Island export terminal going into administration, the cost for the remainder to access the port had increased.

Helix Dumper

Local manufacture of Helix Dumper to take Macarthur Minerals’ iron ore on rail

Mining company Macarthur Minerals is looking to local manufacturing of Helix Dumper wagon technology to get its iron ore to market.

Macarthur Minerals is working with RCR Mining Technologies to implement the Helix Dumper system at the Port of Esperance. Kiruna Wagon has the ability to manufacture the dumper and wagons in Western Australia.

The wagon and dumper technology is the latest in Macarthur Minerals’ process of connecting its iron ore mine in the Lake Giles region of WA with the Port of Esperance for export.

Macarthur Minerals has negotiated an access agreement with Arc Infrastructure to enable the transportation of the magnetite from its mine in the Yilgarn region of WA to the Port of Esperance via rail.

The company has lodged an application for a haul road and rail siding connecting the mine to the Perth to Kalgoorlie rail line. The siding would allow for export to the Port of Esperance or Kwinana Bulk Terminal.

Macarthur Minerals is also progressing discussions for an above rail haulage agreement.

Cameron McCall, president and executive chairman of Macarthur Minerals said the company was making good progress.

“Macarthur is continuing to forge ahead with a systematic approach to delivering every component of the infrastructure pathway that is necessary to bring Macarthur’s Lake Giles Iron Project into production and to see the first ore go over the ship’s rail.”

If implemented, the dumper technology would increase the performance of the Berth 3 ship-loader at the Port of Esperance from 2,200tph to 4,500 tph. The Helix Dumper system is already in use in Scandinavian magnetite operations.

“There is a very real concerted energy building around the lake Giles Iron Project and the company is exceptionally excited to be working collaboratively with the great teams at Southern Ports Authority, RCR MT, Arc Infrastructure and above rail service providers to introduce cutting edge Helix Dumper technology to the Port of Esperance,” said McCall.

Port Botany

Tender released for Port Botany Rail duplication

The design and construct tender for the Port Botany Rail duplication has been released to the three shortlisted contractors.

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC), which is leading the project, has released the documentation to CPB Contractors, Laing O’Rouke Construction Australia, and John Holland, who were shortlisted in January.

Once complete, the $400 million federally funded project will allow for more freight to be transported to and from Port Botany via rail, said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack.

“The Botany Rail Duplication will upgrade and duplicate the current single freight rail track between Mascot and Botany to increase the capacity of Sydney’s freight rail network while bolstering operational efficiency, flexibility and reliability for freight customers,” he said.

“This will create more than 400 jobs during construction and provide a welcome boost to all the hard-working local businesses who use the rail line to get their products to markets.”

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said the project would enable a reduction in trucks travelling through local roads in Sydney.

Australia’s freight requirements are set to grow significantly over the coming decades. While this is great news for the industry and the Australian economy, it will place increasing pressure on our roads,” he said.

“I look forward to this transformative project getting underway so that Sydney, New South Wales and our national supply chain can reap the benefits.”

The Cabramatta Loop Project tender, which will allow freight trains to pass each other on the Southern Sydney Freight Line, will be released separately.

The Port Botany Rail duplication project was recently approved by the NSW government in its fast track process.

The project was also added to the Infrastructure Australia Infrastructure Priority List in August, 2020, recognising the need for greater freight rail capacity to and from Port Botany.

Investigations begun and completed into freight rail incidents

Investigations into two freight rail incidents have begun and been completed this week.

The completed investigation targeted the dewiring of over a kilometre of overhead powerlines in 2018. In this case, the ATSB investigation found that the collapsible walls of the flat racks were not secured by personnel at the Acacia Ridge terminal.

When passing through Cooroy on the North Coast line in Queensland, the rear end wall of the top of a stack of flat racks was extended, leading to it becoming entangled with overhead line equipment (OHLE), including copper wire. The wires were dragged along the platform at Cooroy, where luckily no one was present, however a south-bound train was due to arrive in 30 minutes.

Another concern in the incident was train crew entering the three-metre exclusion zone around the OHLE, before the wires were isolated and earthed. Although de-energised, the cables were not electrically safe.

ATSB director transport safety Mike Walker said the incident showed the need for effective processes for emergencies and in freight terminals.

“This occurrence has highlighted the importance of having checklists for rarely conducted tasks and emergency response tasks in the rail environment, and ensuring these checklists are readily available and used by operational personnel,” said Walker.

Aurizon, which operates the Acacia Ridge terminal and the train in the incident, has updated its safety processes in response to the incident and investigation. Network manager Queensland Rail has also mandated a network control officer checklist for OHLE emergencies.

Another investigation has been opened into a freight train derailing near Lake Bathurst. The Pacific National-operated service, a loaded garbage waste train, derailed after a wheel bearing assemble on the trailing axle of the lead bogie of one of the wagons failed.

The derailment lasted for a distance of roughly 2,500m. No one was injured however there was damage to the wagon’s bogie and frame and minor damage to track infrastructure. The NSW Office of Transport Safety Investigations (OTSI) is conducting the investigation on behalf of the ATSB.

NRAP

The NRAP: Putting reform into action

Bringing together representatives from all facets of the rail industry, the National Rail Action Plan (NRAP) is setting a template for rail’s future.

On a chilly Adelaide day in August 2019, federal and state transport and infrastructure ministers assembled in Adelaide for the 11th meeting of the Transport and Infrastructure Council.

At the meeting, Danny Broad, then CEO of the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) gave a heated speech outlining that without coordinated state and federal action, rail’s massive investment boom would be squandered, citing the dual challenges of a workforce shortage and the lack of common standards.

In comments made after the meeting closed, Broad castigated the laissez-faire approach to training.

“Governments can’t leave it to a nebulous training ‘market’ to resolve, because it’s just not working,” he said.

“These are national issues requiring a national approach, which reinforces the need for jurisdictions to work together to ensure consistency and alignment between jurisdictions.”

Also listening to Broad’s speech was the then-CEO of the Australian Airports Association Caroline Wilkie. Recalling the presentation, Wilkie was struck by the unanimity of the response.

“Over the last few years, ministers have been very keen to understand whether there’s any barriers, or indeed any opportunities, that we should be looking for on the back of this enormous infrastructure spend, particularly in transport. From that discussion, there emerged three key areas of focus.”

The three priority areas that would come out of the August meeting were skills and labour, common standards, and interoperability. The Transport and Infrastructure Council tasked the National Transport Commission to develop a National Rail Action Plan (NRAP), which, chair of the NTC Carolyn Walsh highlighted, built upon the current investment in the rail industry.

“The Rail Action Plan isn’t starting from scratch and saying nothing has happened before; it is drawing together the threads of a lot of things that have been happening over recent years like the development of Inland Rail, the ARTC’s investment in ATMS, Sydney Trains investment in Digital Systems, the Cross River Rail in Queensland.”

These investments were driven by the recognition at a political level that rail had to play a greater role in moving people and goods if Australia was going to improve productivity and reduce emissions.

“There’s been acknowledgement across governments for a number of years now about the freight task. There’s a strong sense that we’ve got a freight task that cannot be dealt with without investment in both roads and rail, but particularly rail for long-haul freight,” said Walsh.

“The growth of our metropolitan cities has been huge so we’ve seen much greater investment in public transport over the last 10-15 years which is terrific. Coupled with that is the recognition of the impact of climate change, and the importance of getting better environmental outcomes through our transport networks, both in terms of freight and passenger.”

What Broad and others had realised, and impressed upon ministers, was that the rail industry in Australia had an enormous opportunity, with all major capitals investing in significant modernisations of their rail network and interstate projects such as Inland Rail. However, this also represented the chance of a pitfall, and one that the Australian rail industry has been learning from for the past century and a half.

“The industry had collectively with government recognised the extent of that we’ve got to get all of those things right to make sure that we don’t create the break of gauge in the future,” said Walsh. “For those investments that are going to take the next 10 years to put in place and enable in-cab signalling for instance, how do we ensure we don’t get the future break of gauge, as those investments come together.”

Walsh noted that with a national pipeline of investment, individual rail infrastructure managers in each state were thinking about how to think about each network as a part of a national set of railways.

To make this happen, working groups for each focus area under the NRAP were formed, with Wilkie co-chairing the skills and labour group, Walsh co-chairing the interoperability group, and Deborah Spring, CEO of the Rail Industry Safety and Standards Board (RISSB), co-chairing the harmonisation group. Each group will also have a representative from industry as the other co-chair, including the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC), the Victorian Department of Transport and the South Australian Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure. In addition, members of each working group will comprise representatives from each state as well as industry representatives from RISSB and the ARA.

With buy-in from the Commonwealth, states, and industry, Walsh noted that the tone of the conversations was energising.

“People are very keen to take advantage of the fact that we do have significant investment,” she said. “Often, we’re all talking about how to cut back, how to find efficiencies, and we are looking to find efficiencies, but this is an opportunity on the back of money and investment going into rail. I think we’ve hit a time where those three planks of industry, the standards setters, and the policy makers are all seeing this as an opportunity.”

Photography by RailGallery.com.au

FINDING THE NEXT GENERATION OF RAIL WORKERS
The issue that Broad had honed in on in his presentation in 2019 was that without a fundamental change to the way that rail skills and qualifications were taught, the rail industry would have a skills crisis. This assertion was supported by a report commissioned by the ARA and published in 2018, which assessed the skills pipeline for the rail sector. As Wilkie noted, the findings were clear.

“We don’t have the incoming workforce to meet the requirements of rail projects. ARA members right now don’t have enough people coming through in terms of apprentices, younger people, people with experience, or people moving into the sector.”

In addition to the lack of people, the 2018 ARA report found that qualifications in one state were not always recognised in another.

“The report identified a number of areas of improvement and action that were required and a lot of that was activity that really required a national approach,” said Wilkie. Walsh also noted that rail is not the only infrastructure sector experiencing a boom.

“There’s two elements of it, the first is whether we have the skills base in Australia generally to be able to deliver on this broad range of infrastructure projects – roads, rail, hospitals, and schools are all competing with each other for the best engineers, leading the cost of infrastructure to go up unless we manage the supply of skills. There’s also how to make rail attractive as an industry in a modern world? It can have a reputation as quite a 19th century technology, when actually with all these investments we’re moving to a 21st century technology, which is very attractive to people developing engineering, IT, and other skills.”

Currently, the lack of skilled workers coming into the rail sector has led to reports of companies poaching staff, or having to hire overseas, increasing costs.

“What we really need to be looking at is how do we get more people into the mix, how do we develop more people and bring more people in, because it is getting difficult to take people from one project to the other,” said Wilkie.

Already, as the working group has had early meetings, Wilkie can see a need for the clear definition of pathways for school students and graduates who want to work in the rail industry. In addition, the working group will be looking at how to enable ongoing training, whether delivered by TAFEs or private registered training organisations.

“Talking to members across the country, every state has shortages in a variety of areas,” said Wilkie. “I was speaking to someone the other day about driver shortages in Western Australia, I’ve spoken to other people about signallers. We’re talking about issues of how you train people on the job, how do you get school children interested in the career. It’s really starting from the beginning to end, and what COVID also throws into the mix is how do you get people that might have been in other sectors with transferrable skills into the rail sector as well.”

Wilkie also highlighted that as rail is identified as a sustainable mobility technology, encouraging investment, this can also be a way for the sector to promote rail to younger workers.

“The ARA and the industry need to do more to talk about the environmental credentials of rail. For the younger generation, a sector like ours that is so good in the sustainability arena and makes such a big difference in terms of environmental footprint is something that we need to promote.

“It’s also promoting diversity. It’s about talking to women about why rail would work for them in their life. The perception of the railway sector if you talk to most younger people it would be of an older sector, which just from going to AusRAIL we know that’s not true. It’s a dynamic industry with lots of diversity from younger and older people who have a lot to add and a lot to bring and I think it’s an exciting sector to be part of.”

SCALING UP THE AUSTRALIAN RAIL INDUSTRY
Australia’s rail industry has long been hampered by the legacies of federation, with each state having their own standards and regulations for railways, and this has led to the proliferation of standards for the component parts of railways and infrastructure.

Currently, it is estimated that there are more than 10 different standards for the thickness of glass required for a passenger train carriage. Not only does this limit the ability of rail suppliers from competing in different states and increases the cost of procurement, it prevents the Australian rail supply industry from competing for international contracts.

“Harmonisation is about how do we actually get common standards of the component parts of railways, so that we’re actually building scale in the capacity of the Australian industry to be able to tender for those projects,” said Walsh.

In addition, distinct standards mean staff are largely tied to one state or rail network, said Wilkie.

“We’re talking about the ability of different operators to be able to move from state to state, and that links back with the ability of staff to move between state.”

What the working group aims to do, is also reduce the cost of operating when freight trains, for example, have to traverse across state borders.

“Another example that I’m given is you’ll have an operator who is working in the freight area and they have a number of different folders in their cab that’s relevant to the rules and regulations on the network in Victoria and they go across to NSW and there’s a different set of rules,” said Wilkie. “It’s about making that consistent, so it makes for a better safety outcome but also a more efficient outcome as well.”

Deborah Spring, RISSB’s executive chair and CEO, is co-chairing the harmonisation working group with Ben Phyland, head of rollingstock development, network integration at the Victorian Department of Transport. Already, a number of standards have been harmonised across states through RISSB’s Priority Planning Process (PPP).

“Six standards in the harmonisation section were raised through the PPP forum so we were able to put them on our plan and in fact four of them started to progress while the NRAP was being finalised, which I think shows the importance of the plan and also how RISSB is a conduit for industry,” said Spring.

Three standards identified in the NRAP, common standards for glazing, bogies, and interior crashworthiness have already been completed, with standards for egress, energy storage, HVAC and emissions now being worked on. As Spring describes, the harmonisation process under the NRAP is an extension of RISSB’s current work program.

“When we’re looking at a standard, we look across the industry’s existing standards, both domestically and internationally, and use that as a starting point for the development of our standards,” said Spring. “We also call for development groups and then we have our five existing standing committees right now, who then have a governance layer on top of that. So, these standards are developed in collaboration with industry, drawing upon industry’s expertise, and looking internationally as well.”

Beyond individual standards for components, the NRAP also calls for common rules for safe work. These will be developed out of the National Rules Project that RISSB is finalising.

“The next step of that project is that we have taken the Australian Network Rules and Procedures (ANRP) and gone out to industry with a survey asking, ‘With the 62 rules here, which ones would add the most value to be nationally harmonised and which ones would be easy to harmonise?’ We came up with a matrix to try and identify those rules which will be high value and initially easy to implement. We then set up a national industry reference group of all the senior safety leaders and executives throughout the rail industry to oversee the progression of work,” said Spring.

What this process has developed is a template for the standardisation and harmonisation of rules across the Australian rail industry. While certain rules are identified in the NRAP, their harmonisation will be the first of a pipeline of rules, where RISSB will focus on harmonising those rules that bring value to the rail industry.

“A lot of people talk about harmonising and standardising, but our approach is it should be done when it’s adding value and not just for the sake of it,” said Spring.

A NEW NATIONAL NETWORK
Being able to move people and goods via rail from one side of Australia to the other has been a relatively recent phenomenon. While the Indian Pacific first ran from Sydney to Perth in 1970, making the journey smooth for freight has also been a major challenge, Spring points out.

“I started in National Rail when we took over the assets from the five states and at that point, to get a container from Brisbane to Perth, nothing talked to each other. Not only did we not have one gauge, we didn’t have standard procedures, we couldn’t track anything, we couldn’t book anything, even the tariff system, nothing worked,” said Spring. “We made that seamless and we’ve got to be able to make it seamless now where you can go across the country and it doesn’t make a difference which system you’re using – the critical information getting to the driver is right, timely, and accurate.”

Having this history in mind, current projects are aware of the need to ensure interoperability, said Walsh.

“We’re looking at new type of railways that have got interconnecting points. The ARTC railway joins with the Sydney Trains railway and they’re both investing in technologies for in-cab signalling, but they are different systems. That’s ok, because you’ve got a different rationale for those systems in different operating environments, but they’ve got to be able to talk to each other so that you’ve got a seamless operation and you’re getting the maximum efficiency and safety out of the system.”

To enable the various systems that rail infrastructure managers and operators are investing in to work with each other, the NRAP working group on interoperability will be identifying how to develop standard operating rules that enable control and communication systems to interact. Walsh, who is co-chairing the group with Simon Ormsby, group executive strategy at the ARTC, highlights that the solution will not be one size fits all.

“The goal does not need to be for all of the networks to have the same technology because there is a rationale for why you would have a different signalling system for long-haul freight across deserts compared to what you need in the city where you want to get every inch out of the headway.”

For example, with digital train control systems being rolled out simultaneously on the nation freight network and on the Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, and Brisbane networks, Walsh noted that there needs to be a national conversation about how these systems will work together.

“I don’t think that we’re looking at for ARTC to convince Sydney Trains that they should both use the ATMS system or Sydney Trains has to convince ARTC to use ETCS, but I do think we need to have those early conversations about how they talk to each other and what is the investment we need to make sure that all rollingstock has the capacity to operate over both of those systems.”

This convergence of technological and financial change, while one of a successive number of national waves of reform, is in part unique due to the collaboration of government and industry in Australia’s contemporary rail industry.

‘Back in the ‘50s and ‘60s it was all about investing in a standard gauge so that people didn’t have to get out of the train and change the train at Albury to continue on down to Melbourne,” said Walsh. “Then in the 90s it was all about competition policy and there was a lot of attention in government about separating above and below rail and getting competition into the freight industry. Then in the ‘00s it was all about getting a single national regulator and this next wave, as we get this investment, is about how do we make sure, in partnership with RISSB as the standards setter and the railways that adopt those standards and adapt them, that we’re now not going to get the future break of gauge.”


Harmonising standards in rollingstock
and signalling will enable Australia’s rail manufacturing sector to be more competitive. Photography by RailGallery.com.au.

MAKING A LONG-TERM IMPACT
None of the NRAP co-chairs that spoke with Rail Express suggested that once the items listed on the plan were complete would the job of growing the workforce, harmonising standards or improving interoperability be finished. In fact, the NRAP hopes to set the groundwork for ongoing collaborative reform in the rail sector.

“The action plan is focusing on these three issues to begin with, but I think it’s legacy over time will be a way of thinking about the national rail system as a system that we need to make sure works collectively together,” said Walsh.

“In the past it’s happened bilaterally, you’ll get ARTC talking to Sydney Trains about the interface of trains into Sydney, but actually at the other end of the country you’ve got Arc as the infrastructure manager from Kalgoorlie to Perth so now we’re actually saying this has to be a national conversation and a multi-lateral conversation around some of these issues.”

For Wilkie, the reform’s significance is having the decision-makers working together.

“In each of those three working groups there’s a representative from each state government, so it means everyone is in the room, everyone is part of the conversation. That’s why I’m so positive about this whole process. It’s shown that the ministers take it seriously, we have all of the right people in the room and now it’s up to us to use this opportunity to really make effective change.”

As Spring highlights, the reform process is a model of what the co-regulatory environment of the rail industry can achieve and avoids the need for top-down mandating of standards or rules.

“My approach is if a standard is good and it adds value and it’s had wide consultation, then in a way industry should be wanting to adopt it. These self-mandated standards then really support the coregulatory environment.”

All-in-all, the work on the NRAP signals that rail’s time has come, said Walsh.

“I grew up in Yass in the 70s watching the Hume Highway be duplicated, and at the same time we weren’t seeing a railway having that same level of investment.

“Partly that was because there didn’t appear to be the drivers – economically, environmentally – to have that investment. I think that’s really shifted in the last 20 years. There is pressure on the infrastructure in terms of the demand, as well as responding to the environmental and safety concerns of the community.”

Super possession to enable maintenance on regional NSW lines

Major rail works will be carried out during a possession of NSW regional lines from Saturday, September 5 to Monday, September 7.

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) will be conducting the works, which include rail maintenance and enhancement works from Albury to Moss Vale and Cootamundra to Parkes.

Known as the annual ‘super possession’, the rail lines in both regions will be shut down over the weekend for yearly maintenance work.

ARTC general manager of asset management – interstate Brian Green described the works that would take place.

“This year’s works include track re-railing, resurfacing and reconditioning, as well as level crossing upgrades, track ballasting, turnout maintenance and bridge maintenance,” he said.

Preparatory works have been underway since August 29 and demobilisation is expected to continue until September 11.

Green said that ARTC works to ensure that as much is done as possible during the shutdown period.

“ARTC makes the most of these short windows to carry out jobs in a planned approach that minimises the impact of major works on train operations and reduces the potential for unplanned downtime on these sections of the rail corridor.”

Passenger services are being replaced by coaches and those in the community are advised to be aware of extra vehicles.

“Our work teams will endeavour to minimise any noise and disruptions the works may cause,” said Green.

“We also ask people in communities close to the rail corridor to be cautious during the shutdown period and keep an eye out for increased vehicle movements in and out of work sites.”

Extra measures are also in place to limit the chance of any spread of COVID-19.

“COVID-19 requires ongoing vigilance in many aspects. The health and safety throughout the works is of critical importance so we have ongoing strict hygiene protocols in place to minimise potential risks to the community and the teams involved in the maintenance shutdown,” said Green.

“All of the combined frontline teams continue to practice social distancing and minimising interactions with the local community. For example, where we previously we would have door knocked to inform nearby neighbours of the upcoming works, we will do a letterbox drop of information flyers instead.”

Tamworth

More funding to begin freight rail works in Tamworth

The NSW government will inject $28 million to reopen a non-operational railway line, providing a rail connection to an intermodal terminal outside Tamworth.

The funding covers five kilometres of track on the West Tamworth to Barraba line, as well as new level crossings to allow freight access to the Tamworth Intermodal Freight Rail Terminal.

Rehabilitating the line will allow goods from Tamworth to be transported by rail to Port Botany for export, said NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro.

“This significant investment is key to the development of the new intermodal rail hub that will better connect Northern NSW’s producers and businesses to the world,” he said.

“When complete, a functioning intermodal rail hub and freight terminal in Tamworth will create a direct rail route to vessels docked at Port Botany, saving businesses significant freight costs.”

Australasian Railway Association (ARA) CEO Caroline Wilkie welcomed the announcement.

“This is an important step towards delivering a facility that will get more freight on rail and better connect NSW producers with their suppliers.”

Regional freight is expected to increase by 28 per cent from 2016 to 2036. Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Paul Toole said facilities such as the one in Tamworth will enable that freight to move more efficiently.

“Inland intermodals are an integral part of moving freight throughout NSW by providing a delivery point load breakdown services and an interface for road to rail integration,” he said.

The $28 million in funding will allow major works to progress along the line, after an initial $7.5 million committed in 2017 enabled early works to begin in May 2020.

Operations are expected to begin in 2021.

The work will include five level crossings as well as the interface between the West Tamworth to Barraba line and the Werris Creek to Armidale line.

Nearby road works are also underway, funded by the local, state, and federal governments.

Tamworth

supply chain

Supply chain vision in the Decade For Action

ASCI2021 promises to demonstrate how the Australian supply chain and others around the globe have weathered COVID-19 and provide insights to their future resilience.

If any images comes to define the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it may be the sight of normally well-stocked supermarket shelves emptied of consumer goods from pasta and flour, to toilet paper and hand sanitiser.

While panic buying was an irrational response to the nature of the COVID-19 threat – there was no chance of Australia running out of many of these items – what the rush on supermarkets and other stores did demonstrate was the finely calibrated nature of Australia’s supply chains. To meet the needs of consumers for fresh goods at any time of the year and to avoid overwhelming storage spaces, Australia’s supply chain managers have been working to ensure that products are ready just in time, and ready to be plucked from the shelves at a customer’s whim.

The massive increase in demand due to panic buying brought to light the fragility of this system. In addition, as international flights were grounded, Australia’s ability to export its world-renowned fresh produce was immediately curtailed.

What this did was bring the role of the supply chain manager, and the people who enable the links in the chain to connect, out of the back-office and into the public spotlight. Monique Fenech, head of sales and marketing at the Australasian Supply Chain Institute (ASCI), has seen this firsthand.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has really brought supply chain management to the forefront of people’s minds. We’re starting to talk about supply chain as an essential service, which has never been the case before.”

In a way by virtue of its success, the complexity of Australia’s supply chain has not often been on view to customers, however the critical role of the professionals in this field has never been more in demand as trade routes recalibrate and new markets are being identified.

“Supply chain management rolls off people’s tongues, they’re all talking about it from a consumer standpoint. But even more impact has been made within organisations because supply chain managers have been brought into the boardroom to fix this problem, look at these outages, look at these delays, look at these increased prices. Executive are asking, ‘We don’t have access to our air freight like we used to, what are we going to do?’ So that’s really changed the internal profile of supply chain management within the organisation,” said Fenech.

While the scale and magnitude of the current crisis may be beyond what was planned for at the beginning of 2020, Fenech counters that dealing with these kinds of issues, whether they be due to a pandemic or other cause, is actually the bread and butter of the profession.

“This situation is business as usual for our supply chain managers; they deal with risk on a day-to-day basis. A good example of that is where perhaps they might have a dual sourcing strategy in place already because for some, not all, supply chains that would be considered best practice, so they would already have set in place some business continuity strategies,” Fenech said.

The next step will be for companies to reset their risk management plans and contingency procedures to account for the ongoing restrictions and the likelihood of another pandemic happening again. This reality calls for supply chains to not simply return to a pre-COVID-19 status, but rather learn from the experience of the pandemic and bounce back more resilient than ever.

“As opposed to going back to the way things were, it’s about bringing all of the political, economic, geographic, and social impacts that affect our supply chains into the mix using really smart technologies such as artificial intelligence to give us a better idea of where our supply chains are vulnerable and how we can improve them in the new decade,” said Fenech.

This next decade will be the focus of the ASCI’s conference, ASCI2021, to be held on the 23rd and 24th of February at the William Inglis Hotel in Sydney. The conference’s theme is “Supply Chain Vision In The Decade For Action”, adapting the United Nation’s priority of the same name for the supply chain industry. Janet Salem, economic affairs officer, circular economy at the United Nations will deliver an international keynote highlighting the theme’s application for supply chain managers.

One area that Fenech sees as improving based on the experience during COVID-19 is the connection and collaboration between suppliers, something that the conference will highlight.

“Deepening the collaboration that we have with our suppliers is only going to make the supply chain more efficient and also more robust. Once that trust is there and the collaboration is there, the visibility inevitably becomes greater, and that is the end goal for a supply chain manager – to have complete visibility across the end-to-end supply chain and sometimes it takes something like a catastrophe to bring you closer to your supplier.”

DELIVERING BEST PRACTICE IN SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT
For the past 60 years, ASCI has been working with the supply chain management industry to grow the career profile of supply chain management.

“Back in the early days, inventory management was a new career and we travelled to the US to find some global standards that we could use in Australia. We’re applying that same technique now to global end to end supply chain standards and in order to do that we’re looking at global compliance and global regulation and bringing that down to the level that we need to communicate to members,” said Fenech.

In Australia, ASCI provides best practice knowledge to build the standards of supply chain management.

“We call that our Professional Accreditation Scheme. Just like lawyers, engineers, and accountants, they have professional accreditation bodies that they belong to and they are registered within a professional accreditation scheme as well. That proves that they can practice within that field and they’ve proven their knowledge in that field,” said Fenech.

“We’ve never had anything like this in supply chain management in Australia so now is really good time to address it, considering the complexities of the end- to-end supply chain have been made so apparent through COVID-19.”

To assist its members in adapting to the disruptions of COVID-19, ASCI is conducting research and benchmarking global best practice so that Australian supply chains can come out of the pandemic more resilient that ever.

“Currently, ASCI is working with the University of Melbourne on a risk survey, to see how we’ve been redefining risk and that will be a really important part of our conference on day two where we will be presenting those findings for the first time and giving our supply chain managers who are delegates at that conference a first look in as to what they need to be doing to reset their business continuity plans.”

While discussions were held at the beginning of the pandemic to understand whether the conference’s theme should change to focus directly on the events of the past six months, the advisory board ultimately decided that the theme of “Supply Chain Vision In The Decade For Action” encompassed the ongoing challenges that supply chains would face into the future.

“If companies don’t change the way they do things and put their supply chains front and centre of their operational efficiency, then they’re just not going to survive in the new era,” said Fenech.

Over the two days of the conference, ASCI has assembled a panel of local and international supply chain leaders, who will share their insights from a range of sectors. These include the medical, industrial, defence, and fast-moving consumer goods sectors, as well as the transport and logistics sector.

On February 25, delegates will be able to tour the under-construction Western Sydney Airport site, the core of the future Aerotropolis and new logistics hub for Western Sydney. Attendees can participate in a panel discussion with local councils, moderated by Amanda Brisot, general manager Western Sydney Business Connection.

With multiple streams on each day, Fenech highlights that it is worth businesses bringing multiple attendees.

“Supply chain managers should think about bringing a few members of their team because there are certainly different experiences that each of their team members could have throughout the two-day conference. Team- members can come together afterwards to share key learnings across those functions.”

Streams on day one will cover procurement, operations management, and logistics management, while on day two streams encompass systems and technology, supply chain management, and the future supply chain management workforce.

“There are some great stories in there from Metcash, for example, about how COVID-19 brought about some great opportunity for them to work with Woolworths and Coles,” said Fenech.

ASCI2021 will also host the 28th ASCI awards’ dinner, and with so much upheaval during the past year, Fenech expects some engaging stories to come out of the awards. “It will be one of the best because we want to see where excellence exists, where excellence has been demonstrated through these really tough times, and often it’s during tough times that innovation really does
push through.”

For more information, to book tickets, and view the full program go to: http://www.asci-2021.com.au/.

EIS released for North Star to Border section of Inland Rail

The NSW government has released the environmental impact statement (EIS) for the North Star to Border (NS2B) section of Inland Rail.

With the EIS now on public exhibition, locals along the alignment are invited to make submissions to the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment.

The NSW component of the NS2B section will involve upgrading 25km of existing, non-operational track and the construction of 5km of new track.

There will also be civil works including the construction of bridges, viaducts and culverts, as well as improved level crossings, grade separations, and crossing loops.

Another 9km of the section runs through Queensland, and will be approved through a separate EIS process.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said the 30km leg was essential in ensuring freight efficiencies.

“We know how important Inland Rail is to the nation — reshaping how freight is moved across the nation while generating more than 16,000 jobs and providing a $16 billion boost to the national economy when and where it is needed most,” McCormack said.

“To deliver Inland Rail and realise these important regional jobs and economic benefits we must ensure the project complies with strict state and commonwealth legislation – the years of work that have informed the NS2B EIS will not be complete until communities have their say.”

The NS2B section crosses the Macintyre River floodplain and community feedback has been involved in the project’s reference design.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said that the project would have immediate and ongoing benefits.

“Inland Rail’s fast and efficient freight service will support national productivity and deliver local benefits through construction and operation, which is why I welcome this opportunity for communities along the alignment to engage with the planning and design.”

Local member and Minister for Regional Health, Regional Communications and Local Government Mark Coulton said that the project, once it has progressed through planning approvals, would have a positive impact on the local economy.

“Inland Rail will support around 5,000 jobs during construction across NSW and could support hundreds more for northern NSW by its 10th year of operation.”

Submissions can be made online and the EIS will be displayed at communities near the alignment.