The Liberal Nationals plan to revolutionise Victoria’s passenger rail network by delivering European-style high-speed rail right across Victoria, but the details are a little sketchy at this stage. “Melbourne’s population squeeze is putting enormous stress on our roads, public transport, schools and hospitals and that impacts everyone’s quality of life,” LNP opposition leader Matthew Guy said. “Unplanned, unmanaged population growth is killing Melbourne’s liveability.” Bringing Victoria’s cities closer together with European-style high-speed rail is the cornerstone of the Liberal Nationals’ plan to ease the population squeeze by decentralising jobs and the population. European-style high-speed rail to regional cities would also give Victorians more options for affordable housing, more lifestyle choices and more employment opportunities. Reaching speeds of up to 200 kilometres per hour, Victoria’s new high-speed rail network is claimed to be the fastest in Australia. The High-Speed Rail Project would see the rebuilding of much of Victoria’s current Class 1 track to 200 kilometres per hour operation as well as major track improvements on every other passenger rail line. High-speed rail would almost halve travel times between Melbourne and Geelong and between Melbourne and Traralgon and, within the first term of a Liberal Nationals Government, travel times between Geelong and Melbourne would be slashed to just 32 minutes, an improvement of 26 minutes on the current timetable, the LNP press release says. This $15 billion to $19 billion super-infrastructure project would be planned and built in three stages over the next ten years. Detail a bit sketchy, says Labor The Victorian Labor Government, however, pointed out uncertainties in the opposition leader’s on-radio explanation of the plan, where he was unable to quantify the expenses involved. ON COST MITCHELL: How much does it cost for a kilometre of that track? GUY: It’s about a million dollars a kilometre if you’re taking out signalling and a range of others. MITCHELL: For the fast track? It’s a million dollars a kilometre? GUY: Mmm, there’s more to it, much more to it than that – that’s just talking about your ballast, and uh.. stone, and sleepers, and rail but there’s more to it than that. MITCHELL: So all up, what’s it cost for the 200km track? GUY: Well… at the moment you’ve got to upgrade your class one track, it’s a bit more technical than just saying what’s the cost from here to there… You’ve actually got a whole bunch of variables as to where you’re building and what kind of ballast you’re going to use and if you’re going over certain kind of soils and clays and the rest. ON TICKET COST MITCHELL: How much will tickets cost? How much will they go up? GUY: Ha ha ha, I haven’t thought that far ahead! ON LAND ACQUISITION MITCHELL: Will you need to acquire land? GUY: No, you’re using existing reservation. [NB. The existing rail corridor has curves, angles, and grades not capable of running 200km/h trains.] ON GEELONG RAIL BY 2022 AND INTERACTION WITH AIRPORT RAIL (NOT OPERATIONAL UNTIL AT LEAST 2027) MITCHELL: How do you get the Geelong train there faster – you’d reduce the number of stops? GUY: Well, you can put on an express service which doesn’t stop to complement your existing services, that’s the first instance, the second instance is obviously using the new Airport Rail Lines from Sunshine-in and then adding extra tracks to Wyndham Vale, and that would then give you express lines out. MITCHELL: Will this affect the Air Rail Link – the link to the Airport? GUY: No! Quite the contrary, it would complement it. And we would use some of those tracks. Actually I’ve been watching this with great interest I think those express tracks from Sunshine are part of this solution. ON GIPPSLAND CHAVASTEK: Where will the tunnels be on the Gippsland line? GUY: I’m not going to pre-empt that. CHAVASTEK: Surely you know. GUY: This is about six hours old, give me a chance, Nicole.
The Victorian Government has created a one-stop shop for Victoria’s freight industry, joining other states in having a state-based freight authority. The Victorian Freight Plan, Delivering the Goods, established Freight Victoria as a dedicated, specialist freight division of Transport for Victoria. Delivering the Goods aims to increase Victoria’s gross product by $40 billion by 2040 and shift more freight onto rail, developing new inland freight terminals and a new freight precinct adjacent to the Port of Melbourne. It includes plans to deliver the $7.6 million allocated in the 2018/19 Victorian Budget for development of a business case for the Western Interstate Freight Terminal, the extension of the Mode Shift Incentive Scheme, investigations into an integrated logistics hub at the Melbourne Markets and Dynon Road, and the review into heavy vehicle driver training and licensing. The plan builds on the government’s claimed $40 billion investment in major infrastructure projects, including the Murray Basin Rail Project, the Freight-Passenger Rail Separation Project, West Gate Tunnel, Port Rail Shuttle Network, and bridge strengthening and regional freight route upgrades. Minister for Public Transport Jacinta Allan said: “Industry has told us they want better coordination with government on the planning, management and delivery of Victoria’s freight and logistics network.” “That’s why we have established Freight Victoria as a single point of contact, a one-stop-shop for primary producers, the freight and logistics industry and local government to contact for information and assistance.”
Victoria University Polytechnic will train hundreds of workers in the skills they need to take up jobs on the West Gate Tunnel under a new TAFE partnership. Under the new partnership, the TAFE division of Victoria University will offer civil construction Certificate II, III and IV courses to meet the growing needs of the government’s pipeline of infrastructure projects. Certificate III in Civil Construction is also part of the Labor Government’s TAFE Free for Priority Courses initiative that will come into effect next year. To accommodate the additional training needs of the West Gate Tunnel project, Victoria University Polytechnic is planning to reopen its Werribee East campus as a Technology Precinct centred on Civil Construction. Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said: “We are investing in the big projects we need, like the West Gate Tunnel, and the people we need to build them. “There are already 1,200 people working on the West Gate Tunnel – this partnership will make sure that young Victorians get the skills they need to help deliver this massive project.” The West Gate Tunnel is expected to create more than 6,000 jobs, including 500 jobs for apprentices, trainees and graduates, under the Victorian Major Project Skills Guarantee. As part of the partnership between Victoria University Polytechnic and constructor CPB-John Holland, there’ll also be dedicated courses for trainees and apprentices already employed on the West Gate Tunnel Project. Construction started on the West Gate Tunnel Project in early 2018 and there are already over 1,200 people working on the job. Victoria University Polytechnic, a Vocational Education and Training provider, will deliver training to about 15,000 students in 2018, with about 5,000 students engaged in trade-based programs.
In his opening remarks to the Victorian Transport Association’s (VTA) annual State Conference, CEO Peter Anderson called for the introduction of a Victorian Freight Authority to advise Government on the requirements of the transport and logistics industries. Anderson noted that the VTA has been advocating for policy that supports operators to be successful in business, whether it be new road, rail and port infrastructure to streamline the freight task, or new ways of operating to create efficiencies for various participants in the supply chain. “An example of this is our advocacy for a Victorian Freight Authority to provide government with the perspective of the transport industry when it comes to decisions impacting planning and development, roads and infrastructure, user charges, the environment, and other public policy matters,’ he said. “The requirements of operators need to be factored early on in decisions being made by regulators and legislators, which is why are pushing for the creation of an authority like this to ensure your unique needs are being looked after.” He added that business cost increases seen across the supply-chain industry over the past 12 months have been felt especially by road transport operators. “We’ve had infrastructure surcharge increases from all the stevedores in Melbourne and elsewhere around the country, road charges are increasing exponentially whether it be fuel and excises, registration, insurance and tolls, and the threat of industrial action throughout many sectors of the economy is arguably the greatest it’s been for a long time, as we saw over Christmas at Webb Dock,” Anderson said. “Indeed, the possibility of future super unions like we’ve seen with the merger of the CFMEU (Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union) and MUA (Maritime Union of Australia) could have far-reaching negative impacts on employers and supply chains nationally. “In year’s gone past, operators would typically wear the increases rather than risk losing business to competitors. We need to shift this attitude and educate not only customers, but consumers as well, that increases in costs are going to be passed on through the supply chain, and ultimately to the end-users of the goods transported by operators.” Without such action, he noted, operators may not have cost recovery increases accepted and will therefore go under, “which is not good for anyone.” In his speech, Anderson also shared that the VTA’s community outreach efforts have been well received. “We are getting closer to a really encouraging outcome with resident groups in the inner west of Melbourne near the port who for some time have been concerned about the impacts of heavy-vehicle movements,” he said. “We’re working on a solution that will create a range of improvements and set new standards for driver training, instruction and vehicle emissions, and ultimately create better harmony between passenger and commercial road users.”
The Victorian Government has signed up to the Inland Rail Project, a direct rail freight connection between Melbourne and Brisbane hoped to jump-start the state’s Regional Rail Revival program. Victoria is the first state to officially commit to the Inland Rail Project, signing a bilateral agreement with the Federal Government. This pledges them to a long-term lease with the Australian Rail Track Corporation and supports the extension of the northeast inland rail corridor, in addition to changes to the North East Rail Line. This development will allow for the moving of double-stacked freight containers between Melbourne and Brisbane and is expected to return $16 billion to the national economy. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Michael McCormack said it was a positive step forward on a project that will create both jobs and investment opportunities throughout regional Victoria. “I’m pleased to reach agreement with Victoria, the first state to get behind Inland Rail which will improve freight travel times for local farmers and producers and support thousands of jobs,” said the Deputy Prime Minister. “Once complete, Inland Rail will create thousands of jobs nationwide and return $16 billion to the national economy during the delivery phase and in the first 50 years of operation.” While Inland Rail is a freight project, it will also extend benefits to passengers, releasing funds for much-needed upgrades via the Victorian Regional Rail Revival program. Victorian Minister for Public Transport and Major Projects Jacinta Allan thanked the Deputy Prime Minister for “acting quickly, so we can now get on with the job of upgrading track, stations and signalling throughout regional Victoria, to run modern trains and get people home sooner.”
Legislation has passed the Victorian Parliament this week that allows driverless vehicles to be trialled across the state. Under the changes to the Road Safety Act, VicRoads will be able to grant permits to individuals or organisations wanting to conduct on road trials of automated vehicles. The government believes this legislation will encourage national and international industry leaders to develop this emerging technology in Victoria, which will mean more jobs and opportunities for Victorians. Minister for Roads and Road Safety Luke Donnellan has also announced a $9 million grant program for researchers and industry, as part of the Towards Zero Road Strategy and Action Plan. These grants will support the development of vehicles with connected and automated technology and safety features. “Victoria is at the forefront of autonomous vehicle technology and these changes will allow our best and brightest to continue to drive transport innovation, Mr Donellan said. “Automated vehicles will be a game-changer for Victorian roads – initially reducing and ultimately eliminating human driver error.” Under the new laws, all driverless vehicle trials will require a human supervisor to monitor the vehicle from either inside or outside the vehicle. Once it has been established a vehicle can drive safely, this condition may be removed to allow the vehicle to drive in automated mode in limited circumstances without a supervisor. VicRoads acting deputy chief executive Robyn Seymour said: “We’re excited to support trials of automated vehicles, which will revolutionise the way we travel and move around our communities.”
JD.com, one of China’s largest online retailers, will open its regional headquarters in Melbourne, the Victorian Government has announced. JD.com has over 266 million customer accounts, and operates China’s largest nationwide fulfilment network, with seven fulfilment centres and more than 400 warehouses in 2,830 counties and districts throughout China. The company sells a wide range of goods, including vitamins, electronics, clothing and books. Following a visit by representatives from JD.com to the Food and Beverage Trade Week in Victoria in October, the Andrews Labor Government has been working closely with the company to encourage it to establish a presence in the region. “This announcement will give more Victorian businesses the opportunity to take their products to the world and is a clear indication that we’re leading the nation on the digital economy,” said Victorian Minister for Trade and Investment Philip Dalidakis. “We welcome JD.com with open arms and look forward to all the opportunities that this new regional HQ will bring to Victoria, including strengthening our economy and creating more local jobs.” Patrick Nestel, Manager of JD.com Australia, added: “Victoria’s wealth of high-quality suppliers, supportive government, 24/7 airport and largest container port in the southern hemisphere made it the obvious choice for JD.com’s new regional HQ.”
The Hon. Barnaby Joyce has hailed progress on the Inland Rail project and safety upgrade works on the Western Highway in his first official communications as the Federal Government’s Minister for Infrastructure and Transport. Joyce announced that the first delivery of steel for the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail project has arrived on site. “This project is a game-changer for our regions,” said Joyce. “[On 15 January], we have seen the first 14,000 tonnes of steel to be delivered just for Parkes to Narromine section. We’re still on track for works to begin in May this year.” He also issued a statement on the beginning of the $20 million safety upgrade of the Western Highway between Stawell in west Victoria and the South Australian border, jointly funded by the Victorian and Federal Governments. “The Western Highway serves as a key transport corridor through Victoria’s western district and upgrading this section of the highway will significantly improve safety for all users including farming, tourism and manufacturing interests.”
The Victoria-based national distribution centre of food manufacturer Heinz is to be expanded by owner SCT Group. The Heinz Altona Distribution Centre will be expanded to 45,700m2 of warehouse space, and receive upgrades to energy-efficient LED lighting, new rapid doors, additional recessed loading docks and bird-netting to the 3,400m2 of existing canopies. “Our national DC has been at SCT’s Altona intermodal facility now for over 15 years,” said David Moyle, Heinz’ logistics boss. “We’re looking forward to benefiting from the new rail services to Brisbane and direct rail port shuttles in the future.” The expansion is set to be completed in October 2018, reportedly making the facility one of the largest warehouses in Melbourne’s western suburbs.
Toyota Material Handling Australia (TMHA) has supplied equipment to new cold storage market entrant, NewCold. NewCold Melbourne opened its two warehouses in August and September, with 45 leased Toyota and BT forklifts. Netherlands-based NewCold Advanced Cold Logistics reportedly decided to approach TMHA for its first Australian operations due to its relations with Toyota in Europe. The 34-metre-high warehouses have a combined 40,800m2 of floor area, storage for over 200,000 pallets, 39 loading docks and operate around the clock. One is a cold store at minus 23oC, the other a chilled store with two, eight and 11oC environments. “This makes Toyota our material handling partner of choice, while the comprehensive service offering is unique and cost effective as well,” said Ray Perry, Director – Oceania, NewCold. “We appreciate that Toyota does not only supply the forklift [equipment] but will also service the equipment as and when we need it. “Being a logistics and warehouse service provider, Toyota shares common customer values with NewCold. We trust that we will benefit from TMHA’s wealth of knowledge in the industry in Australia to increase our productivity, while staying ahead of our competition.” Jason Fennell, Corporate Account Manager at TMHA, said local discussions with NewCold began in October 2016 and a decision was made in May 2017. “We received a request to assist NewCold from our corporate division and worked from there,” he said. “NewCold uses a variety of suppliers and products in Europe. However, the core business is to be able to pick orders, replenish stock, load and unload required deliveries, and store required long-life stocks on a 24/7 basis. “This is the company’s first development in Australia, so we are committed to working with them to develop the relationship and ensure we cover all the material handling requirements, as well as making this process easy for the customer.” The initial equipment roster for NewCold’s Melbourne facilities includes 21 BT electric pallet jacks, 10 Toyota 8-Series FBE18 three-wheel electric forklifts, seven BT RRE140H reach trucks, four Toyota 32-8FG30 internal combustion forklifts, a pair of 32-8FG18 Toyota forklifts, a BT RRE250H reach truck and four battery chargers.