Renewed focus

This article appeared in the February/March 2018 issue of Logistics & Materials Handling.
Australia’s rail freight industry has been in the spotlight in recent months, with the Inland Rail project on track to bring back the mode’s visibility – and, importantly, its viability. AusRAIL PLUS 2017 looked to champion the mode’s successes, and potential.
All governments recognise the importance and benefits of rail to Australia,” said Danny Broad – CEO of the Australasian Railway Association (ARA), as he opened the ARA’s annual event, AusRAIL PLUS 2017, in Brisbane. “Investment in rail made in the national interest will enhance rail’s contribution to the economy through greater efficiency in both public transport and supply chain networks – all Australians will be the beneficiaries.”
With forecast investment in both new rolling stock – or rail vehicles – and rail infrastructure of $100 billion over the next 15 years, and Inland Rail and a national rail industry program securing $20 million in funding in the FY17 Federal Budget, “rail certainly is the place to be,” he noted.
“An important era lies ahead of us – it is a pivotal time, and the implementation of the national rail industry plan is essential.”
Darren Chester, then-Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, echoed Broad’s comments, noting that the federal backing for the Inland Rail project and other key rail infrastructure is a clear vote of confidence in the future of the industry.
“[This is] the most exciting time in the past 100 years to be in involved in rail,” said Chester. “Australia needs Inland Rail – without it, we won’t be able to cope with a projected doubling of our nation’s freight task.
“Currently, about 25 per cent of Melbourne-to-Brisbane freight is carried on rail, and around 75 per cent is carried on road. This project will help to even the ledger.”
Seeing the value
The ARA commissioned consultancy Deloitte to produce a report looking at future strains on passenger and freight rail networks, rail safety, rail’s benefits over road, and environmental considerations for modal choices. Broad released the Value of Rail report at the event, noting that it highlights the significant role the rail industry will play in enabling Australia to cope with future challenges.
“Australia’s population is increasing at a rate of 370,000 people per year,” he said. “By 2060, both Sydney and Melbourne populations will have grown by approximately three million people.
“Freight is likely to grow with gross domestic product (GDP) rather than the population growth – with a potential 88 per cent increase in kilometres travelled by 2050, and an increase in vehicle stocks of about 2.5 million trucks and light commercial vehicles.
“To manage these challenges, Australia will have to develop its multimodal transport systems, with light rail and heavy rail at its spine.”
The report found that Australia’s population will double by 2075, reaching almost 45 million people. It notes that rail currently contributes approximately $26 billion to the Australian economy each year, while offering lower emissions and safety and congestion benefits compared to other transport modes.
“Significant investments are being made into Australia’s rail infrastructure,” the report continues. “In some sense, these investments are making up for a prolonged period of underinvestment.”
Dealing with disruption
Change was a central topic at the conference – in particular, uncertainty about the pace and extent of change to work, technology and population.
As Craig Rispin, Business Futurist and Technology Guru at The Future Trends Group, explained, the ability to obtain and analyse data will be key in the years ahead.
“Data is the new oil, and artificial intelligence (AI) is the new oil,” he said – since the ability to collect data means nothing without the ability to analyse it.
By 2028, he shared, the world will be far removed from the one we live in today. Fifty per cent of jobs will have been replaced by machinery, the majority of cars will be driverless, and six in ten people will be living in cities – with one in three aged over 100. The significance, he said, is businesses cannot expect to continue to keep working the same way while the world changes around them.
He pointed to the rise of the start-up culture as one risk to established companies, with organisations such as Airbnb and Uber enabling individuals to do what entire companies used to do. While competing with new, lean rail start-ups, the industry will also have to remain mindful of advances in emission-reduction technology in trucks, allowing them to travel from Melbourne to Sydney in one charge, recharge and head back again. “Be part of the future,” said Rispin. “Or try to avoid the inevitable.”
Port partnership
For ports to handle the incoming onslaught of freight, they will need to increase their reliance on rail, shared Jonathan Lafforgue, General Manager – Operations and Environment at NSW Ports.
“The 2016–2017 ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) Stevedore Monitoring Report came out [in early November 2017], stating that Port Botany is now Australia’s largest container stevedoring port,” said Lafforgue. “While we welcome that news, we’re more excited about the potential capacity we’ve still got in our port to grow – right now, we’re handling a little under 2.5 million TEU (twenty-foot equivalent units) per annum. The port itself has the capacity to grow to 7.5–8 million TEU– meaning we have enough key lines, berths, and land behind that to facilitate that volume of freight.”
He noted that the only way NSW Ports will be able to put that much freight across the key lines of ships is by getting 40 per cent of containers on rail. “Right now, we’re proud of the fact that it’s about 20 per cent – but we need to double that to reach that next-level capacity.”
The majority of Port Botany’s freight is regional rail at present, and 80 per cent is delivered within a 40km radius of the Port.
“To get to that next step, we’ll need to start targeting the import freight, rather than the export freight – and to do that, we’ll need the intermodals,” said Lafforgue.
One voice
According to Priscilla Radice – Principal and Australasian Business Leader at professional consultancy Arup, the privatisation of Australia’s ports has had an unexpected effect on the conversation around freight in the country.
“With the privatisation of the ports, I don’t think anyone predicted how strong a voice [ports would] have,” said Radice, adding that their input in creating a strong supply chain is key, since ports are mode agnostic. Now, privatised ports are contributing to the conversation.
Radice noted that oppositional conversation about freight in unhelpful, especially in the government space.
“Having worked alongside governments, looking at light rail, passenger rail, road and inner-city shaping policies, I see that the oppositional speak of freight – road versus rail, freight versus commuter – I don’t think [it] helps,” she said. “Governments are shifting more and more towards city shaping, understanding their current ecosystem – they need the freight industry to provide a coordinated ‘one’ voice that is very clear […] so the supply chain does not happen in isolation.”
Radice advocated a holistic and united approach to infrastructure planning, noting that rail freight will always have to jostle for its slice of the pie after passenger rail.
“NSW Ports, your target of 40 per cent freight on rail is potentially in direct conflict with the densification of population along freight lines,” she said. “Look at what the freight piece is in the wider context for cities – you’ll never beat the commuter push. Governments need to know that the population is going to double, by getting smarter around all the technology freight will be what that looks like in terms of its infrastructure. You can’t continue to be oppositional.”
The rail freight industry has been handed an opportunity to prove itself viable as an alternative to road transport, though the years ahead will not be free of challenges. Key will be industry development focused on remaining competitive, speakers noted, whether that be through the development of intermodal freight terminals, sophisticated route planning and tracking technology, autonomous capabilities or otherwise.
With the nation’s rail experts already strategising for the various unknowns, the rail industry could be on the right track.

ARA unveils report heralding benefit of rail

At the AusRAIL PLUS 2017, held this week in Brisbane, Australasian Railway Association (ARA) CEO Danny Broad launched the Value of Rail Report, a report prepared by Deloitte Access Economics.
“It is my absolute pleasure today to launch the Value of Rail Report, which highlights the contribution of rail to Australia,” said Danny Broad, CEO, ARA.
“We know that Australia’s population increases at a rate of 370,000 people every year. By 2060, both Sydney and Melbourne will have grown by approximately three million people each.”
He noted that improved transport solutions will be needed to deal with congestion experienced as Australia’s population increases.
“To manage these challenges, Australia will have to develop its multimodal transport solutions with light and heavy rail as its spine to provide the solutions that Australia needs in shaping our cities and our regions into the future.
“The story with growth in freight traffic is even greater – a potential 88 per cent increase in kilometres travelled by 2050, and an increase of some 2.5 million trucks and light commercial vehicles on our roads,” he added.
“This growth in freight underscores the need for an efficient supply chain and for a heavy vehicle pricing framework that accurately captures the cost of road infrastructure provision and the negative externalities of road usage, such as congestion, vehicle emission and accidents – a point which is reinforced in the report.”
He added that rail makes a significant contribution to the Australian economy, injecting around $26 billion into the national economy, contributing 1.6 per cent of GDP and acting as a key enabler of exports.
“We create over 140,000 jobs in our cities and our regions, provide safe, efficient, environmentally and socially beneficial modes of transport,” he said.
“We ask governments to get on board and implement our National Rail Industry Plan to provide the rail industry and the broader Australian community with long-term certainty of improved transport solutions for the benefit of all.”

Ten-point plan for supply chain efficiencies

The Australasian Railway Association (ARA) has submitted its ‘Ten Point Plan to Creating Greater National Freight and Supply Chain Efficiencies’ to the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development’s inquiry into National Freight and Supply Chain Priorities.
“The ARA supports the development of a national freight and supply chain strategy to guide long term decision making and investments by both government and industry,” said Australasian Railway Association chief executive officer Danny Broad.
“With Australia’s freight task expected to grow by more than 80 per cent between 2011 and 2031 combined with our national population expected to increase to 30.5 million by 2031, it is critical that we act now to ensure that we are able to meet the freight needs of tomorrow.
“The ARA, on behalf of the rail industry has identified ten areas that require attention to enable greater efficiency and productivity for rail freight. They include linking future infrastructure funding to the delivery of reform, commitment to a competitively neutral policy approach to ensure domestic rail freight markets can operate as far as possible on a level footing with other modal choices, a national framework for corridor protection, equitable access pricing for road and rail, as well as Commonwealth, state and territory government investment into rail.
“Other areas for improvement also include maximising efficiency on the existing network, addressing ‘externalities’ that impact upon the Australian community negatively, supporting technology developments, addressing jurisdictional inconsistencies and continuing to identify ways to address challenges associated with different track owners.
The ARA’s ‘Ten Point Plan to Creating National Freight and Supply Chain Efficiencies’ submission to the Inquiry into the National Freight and Supply Chain Priorities is available here. A summary of the 10 Point Plan is available here.

ARA submits advice for national supply-chain strategy inquiry

The Australasian Railway Association (ARA) has released its submission for the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development’s inquiry into National Freight and Supply Chain Priorities – the Ten Point Plan to Creating Greater National Freight and Supply Chain Efficiencies.
“The ARA supports the development of a national freight and supply chain strategy to guide long-term decision-making and investments by both government and industry,” said Danny Broad, CEO, ARA.
“With Australia’s freight task expected to grow by more than 80 per cent between 2011 and 2031, combined with our national population expected to increase to 30.5 million by 2031, it is critical that we act now to ensure that we are able to meet the freight needs of tomorrow.
The ARA identified 10 areas in need of attention to enable greater efficiency and productivity for rail freight, including linking future infrastructure funding to the delivery of reform, committing to a competitively neutral policy approach to ensure domestic rail freight markets can operate as far as possible on a level footing with other modal choices, a national framework for corridor protection and equitable access pricing for road and rail.
“Other areas for improvement also include maximising efficiency on the existing network, addressing ‘externalities’ that impact upon the Australian community negatively, supporting technology developments, addressing jurisdictional inconsistencies and continuing to identify ways to address challenges associated with different track owners,” he said.
The submission can be viewed on the ARA’s website.

ARA hails Federal Budget rail focus

The Australasian Railway Association (ARA) has spoken in support of the $20 billion investment in rail announced by the Federal Government’s in the 2017–2018 Budget.
“The Government’s renewed commitment to rail, including through its $10 billion National Rail Program for urban and regional passenger rail, underscores its importance to Australia and is welcomed by the rail industry,” said Danny Broad, CEO, ARA.
“ARA congratulates the Government’s strong funding commitment to rail in the 2017-2018 budget to boost economic activity and improve the liveability of our cities.”
In particular, Broad applauded the Government’s commitment to Inland Rail through its $8.4 billion equity injection to the Australian Rail Track Corporation.
“The Government’s $8.4 billion commitment to Inland Rail is critical to supporting the delivery of this iconic national freight project,” he said.
“Linking Victoria and regional NSW with Queensland will help get freight off the road and onto rail, address rising congestion in Sydney and will deliver thousands of jobs, many in regional Australia.
“This project will deliver a strong economic contribution to the nation and will enhance productivity and increase consumer freight options.”
Broad noted that the Government’s intention for a public private partnership to progress the Toowoomba to Kagaru tunnel section would the most challenging aspect of the project.
“Whist this capital injection to the ARTC is welcomed, the fact remains that significant work needs to occur to ensure the Inland Rail project comes to fruition,” said Broad. “This includes maximising the economic benefits of this project by delivering efficient linkages that directly connect the railway line to the Port of Melbourne and Port Brisbane.”

Rise in the use of rail: report

Australia’s rail industry is growing, with an industry report showing freight and passenger numbers have increased.

The Australian Rail Industry Report, commissioned by the Australasian Railway Association, looked at data from 22 operators across the country, bringing light to new statistics on how activity on the network is increasing.

The report found that passenger journeys have increased by 84 million over the past four years.

The latest figures from 2011/12 showed a total of 784.2 million journeys, representing an increase of 15.4 million on the previous year.

Chief of ARA, Byran Nye, said the increase in passenger numbers was win for the environment.

“The average passenger train can take 525 cars off the road and reduce carbon emissions by the same amount as planting 320 hectares of trees,” Nye said.

“If the growing trend that this report indicates continues, Australia will be right on track to a greener and more productive future through the utilisation of rail.”

While freight also increased, with the industry carrying 8.2 per cent more to 929.6 million tonnes, with ore making up 53 per cent, followed by coal at 33 per cent.

“This report justifies increased investment in rail to reduce congestion on roads and increase productivity across the economy,” Nye said.

“With only 5 per cent of freight moving rail between Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, rail has the capacity and is ready to take more freight between the capitals and free up our congested highways.”

NSW Budget delivers major investment in rail

The Australasian Railway Association has welcomed the NSW State Government’s commitment to rail in the latest budget, stating it signals the most comprehensive investment in rail by any state.

The 2013-14 Budget includes investment in key rail upgrades across New South Wales.

 $4.1 billion has been earmarked for the North West Rail over four years, while $353 million will be spent on the continuation of works for the South West Rail Link.

The country regional network will benefit from $177 million, of which $48 million was allocated for work on grain lines.

While continued commitment to light rail was shown with a further $67 million allocated to complete the Inner West Light Rail extension, and $423 million will be invested over the next four years for the new CBD and South East light rail linking the CBD to Randwick and Kingsford.

ARA CEO Brya Nye said the rail industry has long called for a greater investment in passenger and freight rail in NSW.

“Today’s funding commitments for key rail projects will not only ease Sydney’s congestion, but will trigger the much needed shift of moving people and freight off the overcrowded and bottlenecked roads on to the more efficient and environmentally sustainable tracks,” he said.

Rail industry worker system launched

In a move aimed at cutting red tape for rail employees and employers, the Australasian Railway Association have launched an industry led solution to managing worker competence that complies with national legislative requirements.

By law, every contractor and staff member working on the network must be able to provide proof of competency. The Rail Industry Worker competency management system and the resultant card have been designed to provide a single point of reference for competency management in the rail industry.

The program commenced as an initiative of the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) and RailCorp to address these requirements under the Rail Safety Act.  The opportunity to progress a competence management system for contractors evolved.

Building on and replacing the Rail Safety Worker program which was implemented in 2012, the industry new industry led solution has been designed to meet national regulatory requirements in the most efficient way.

ARA CEO Bryan Nye said the new system will be easier to use.

 “Developed by the rail industry for the rail industry, the card will be much quicker and easier to check worker competency on-site, allowing employers piece of mind and allowing employees to get on with their work,” Nye said.

“Registration is simple; details are entered online with current documentation uploaded. The information is always live, so it can be easily updated at any time,” Nye explained. Once the documents have been uploaded and identity confirmed through a 100 point identification check at approved Australia Post outlets, the Rail Industry Worker card arrives via registered post.

Using the latest smart technology, cards can be scanned by smart phones and tablets to securely access the appropriate data.  All information coded on the anti-counterfeit card is kept in a secure database. Full functionality of the cards will be progressively rolled out over the coming months.

The ARA said the although registration for rail safety contractors remains the priority for the initial phase of the program, the Rail Industry Worker system has the inbuilt capacity to extend to other areas of the rail industry. Supported by the Rail Industry Safety and Standards Board, the ARA said new system is set to play a vital role in the future of the rail industry in Australia.

Workforce development manager for ARA, Vikki Stewart told LMH the new system has been well-received in the industry.

“The launch on 6 march was well received and support for ‘Rail Industry Worker’ is growing with 2,108 companies and 18,671 workers now registered on the system,” Stewart said.

Stewart said that participating organisations were meeting regularly to achieve greater outcomes for the system.

“The industry led governance committee is meeting monthly and collaboration has been very positive; with consideration given to the requirement of each state and organisation to achieve outcomes that will work for all parties across Australia.”

Rail industry Worker system launched

In a move aimed at cutting red tape for rail employees and employers, the Australasian Railway Association have launched an industry led solution to managing worker competence that complies with national legislative requirements.

By law, every contractor and staff member working on the network must be able to provide proof of competency.  The Rail Industry Worker competency management system and the resultant card have been designed to provide a single point of reference for competency management in the rail industry.

The program commenced as an initiative of the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) and RailCorp to address these requirements under the Rail Safety Act.  The opportunity to progress a competence management system for contractors evolved.

Building on and replacing the Rail Safety Worker program which was implemented in 2012, the industry new industry led solution has been designed to meet national regulatory requirements in the most efficient way.

ARA CEO Bryan Nye said the new system will be easier to use.

 “Developed by the rail industry for the rail industry, the card will be much quicker and easier to check worker competency on-site, allowing employers piece of mind and allowing employees to get on with their work,” Nye said.

“Registration is simple; details are entered online with current documentation uploaded. The information is always live, so it can be easily updated at any time,” Nye explained. Once the documents have been uploaded and identity confirmed through a 100 point identification check at approved Australia Post outlets, the Rail Industry Worker card arrives via registered post.

Using the latest smart technology, cards can be scanned by smart phones and tablets to securely access the appropriate data.  All information coded on the anti-counterfeit card is kept in a secure database. Full functionality of the cards will be progressively rolled out over the coming months.

The ARA said the although registration for rail safety contractors remains the priority for the initial phase of the program, the Rail Industry Worker system has the inbuilt capacity to extend to other areas of the rail industry. Supported by the Rail Industry Safety and Standards Board, the ARA said new system is set to play a vital role in the future of the rail industry in Australia.

Workforce development manager for ARA, Vikki Stewart told LMH the new system has been well-received in the industry.

“The launch on 6 march was well received and support for ‘Rail Industry Worker’ is growing with 2,108 companies and 18,671 workers now registered on the system,” Stewart said.

Stewart said that participating organisations were meeting regularly to achieve greater outcomes for the system.

“The industry led governance committee is meeting monthly and collaboration has been very positive; with consideration given to the requirement of each state and organisation to achieve outcomes that will work for all parties across Australia.”

ARTC in the gunsights

 
One of Australia’s leading rail companies has taken aim at the Australian Rail Track Corporation, saying its role as a cash-cow for the government is detrimental to rail’s development.
 
The Australian Rail Track Corporation’s (ARTC) mandate should be to maximise freight on rail rather than make a profit, SCT Logistics chief executive Geoff Smith said.
 
"Any diminished profitability of track access is trivial compared with benefits to Australia of ensuring that rail infrastructure is used as efficiently as it can be," he said.
 
Speaking at a Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) event in Melbourne entitled Rail Reform: Getting freight back on track, Mr Smith said that the ARTC was "a corporation with profit accountability".
 
He said the February 2008 decision to increase track access charges on the east-west corridor by 10 per cent while decreasing track access on the north-south corridor by 10 per cent was retrograde. This had led to an increase in freight rates to Perth.
 
Mr Smith said rail’s share of the north-south freight market cannot grow without major improvements on the line.
 
"If we are to swing volumes from road to rail on the eastern seaboard, that will be driven by a more competitive pricing structure," he said.
 
"To reduce prices we need a network which facilitates optimum trains and that’s where the government’s investments can allow us to do that.”
 
Australasian Railway Association CEO Bryan Nye said the sorry state of the country’s grain rail infrastructure meant that if the drought were to break, farmers would struggle to get their harvest to the ports.
 
Mr Nye also noted that the average age of Australian locomotives generally was 34.5 years as opposed to eight years in the USA, and rolling stock was also aging and in short supply.
 
National Transport Commission CEO Nick Dimopoulos has also slammed government inaction and “short-term fixes” on rail policy, and called for immediate action saying “it’s time to stop talking and get on with the job!”
 
Read full article here.

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