Aurizon calls for vigilance at rail crossings

Rail transport business Aurizon is urging motorists and pedestrians to be vigilant around rail crossings after a recent high volume of near-miss incidents across its national operations.
Danny Harnedy, Head of Safety, Aurizon, said the company operates approximately 160 coal and freight trains a day on its 2,700km coal rail network in Central Queensland and other rail networks across Australia.
“Our drivers work around the clock to carry more than 250 million tonnes of freight for customers each year. That means they are on the tracks day and night and can travel in either direction,” he said.
“In the past two months, our drivers have been exposed to twelve near misses with vehicles in Queensland and Western Australia, one near miss with a pedestrian in Ipswich and two vehicles have collided with trains south of Townsville and in Gladstone.
“Just last week, south of Townsville, a vehicle towing a horse float collided with an Aurizon train at a level crossing. Our driver was traumatised by this incident and the driver of the vehicle also sustained injuries.
“In the near miss at Moura, the driver of the car recklessly drove around the flashing lights and boom gates and narrowly missed colliding with the train.
“While it’s fortunate that no one was severely injured in any of these incidents, people need to understand that there is a very real and emotional impact for our drivers and their families.”
Harnedy urged people in all communities to stop taking risks with their lives and the lives of train drivers, noting that if people continue to take risks, it will be only a matter of time before the outcome is fatal.
“When our drivers see a vehicle or a person on the tracks, they are fully aware they can’t immediately stop or swerve to miss,” he added. “They know they can apply emergency brakes, but when a fully loaded train can take two kilometres to stop, the outcome can be devastating.”
Harnedy said Aurizon’s commitment to safety extends to the people in the communities where the company operates.
“Our message regarding rail crossing safety remains simple. Always approach rail crossings cautiously and stop, look, listen and think,” he said. “Like road safety, rail safety is critically important and we encourage parents to teach their children from a young age about the dangers associated with rail level crossings.
“Aurizon’s website contains important messages and videos about rail safety, which we encourage all families to watch,” he said.

"More flexible" train crew operations for Aurizon

Rail freight company Aurizon has announced major changes in its Queensland operations “to meet customer needs” which will see many of its full-time train crew members redeployed.
Aurizon reports that it is moving to a “more flexible” train crewing operations in Central and North Queensland and undertaking a staged closure of its rollingstock maintenance workshop in Rockhampton to address varying demand in the resources sector as well as changes to Aurizon’s operating footprint.
Carter said Aurizon would work to offset the losses of local jobs by undertaking a review of which metropolitan based roles have the potential to be relocated to Rockhampton and other regional centres.
The proposed changes will be phased through to late 2018, to allow all options to be explored for employees including retraining, redeployment and redundancy.
Mike Carter, Head of Operations, Aurizon, said the business has changed significantly in recent years in line with changing market demand.
“Aurizon needs to continue to change in line with what our customers need if we are to remain competitive,” he added.
“Historically, most of our train crew have been permanent full-time employees and we have been unable to match fluctuations in weekly and monthly demand in train haulage services from coal customers or contract wins or losses.
“As a result we are proposing to change the composition of our train crew workforce in Central and North Queensland. This will involve engaging more contractors to provide greater flexibility for our customers. This will result in reducing the number of permanent full-time train drivers.
“In addition we have also commenced consultation with employees on the staged closure of the Rockhampton rollingstock maintenance workshops by late 2018.
Carter noted that the amount of work required at the Rockhampton workshop has reduced significantly in recent years. “It is a legacy facility,” he said. “Designed for a different operating footprint in a different time – and [it] is not located close to our operations in the Central Queensland Coal Network.”
Aurizon has undertaken a review of core maintenance requirements for the Queensland rollingstock fleet and found that the company’s future maintenance task will be best delivered at newer facilities at Jilalan (Sarina), Stuart (Townsville), Willowburn (Toowoomba) and Callemondah (Gladstone), with components supply and non-core maintenance sourced from third parties.
More than 180 employees at the Rockhampton rollingstock workshop stand to be impacted by the closure, of these up to 40 are expected to have the opportunity for redeployment to Aurizon’s Jilalan facility.
Over 120 permanent train crew positions will be phased out progressively over the next 12 months at the depots of Callemondah, Bluff, and Stanwell, with approximately 70 locally based train crew contractor positions expected to be created over that period.
At the North Queensland depots of Mackay and Townsville, approximately 62 permanent positions including train crew, freight operators and leaders will be cut and the Mackay Freight train crew depot will close.
An additional 20 contractor train crew position will be created for the Coppabella depot near Moranbah in central Queensland to meet increased customer demand on the Goonyella and Newlands Coal Systems.
Carter said Aurizon would also commence discussions with local, state and federal government representatives on the opportunity for urban redevelopment in Rockhampton on land vacated by the workshops.
The Rockhampton Workshop was first established in 1870s and includes a heritage-listed and largely preserved ‘roundhouse’ previously used to move locomotives into various maintenance bays.
Aurizon’s presence in the Rockhampton region will continue, with more than 650 employees stationed across its various businesses in the area.

Good investment, bad investment

This column first appeared in the February/March 217 issue of Logistics & Materials Handling Magazine.
There has been much talk recently about budget repair and ‘good’ and ‘bad’ debt. It comes at a time when government debt and interest rates are very low by historical standards, and when Australian governments still have excellent credit ratings compared to other countries. In that environment, surely it would be a good time to borrow to fund infrastructure?
It is an important question, but it carries the danger of over-simplification: The oversimplification is the suggestion that all borrowing for spending on infrastructure is ‘good’ and all borrowing for other purposes is ‘bad’.
In reality, however, it is more important that any borrowing or, indeed, any spending by government, be a good investment, whether it is spent on infrastructure, on one hand, or on education or health, on the other.
The tale of the two trains illustrates the point. One train is the Very Fast Train between Sydney-Canberra and Melbourne for passengers.
The other is the Inland Rail Project between Melbourne and Brisbane for freight.
The former is glamorous and attractive to people who might use it, but has an extremely weak economic case, particularly as the route is already well served by air, something which will only get better with the building of Sydney’s second airport.
The latter gets little public attention and very few people will actually travel on it, but its economic case is convincingly sound and ultimately it will greatly benefit many people.
Alas, freight does not vote, even if its efficient delivery improves the lives of those who do.
To build the former would be worse than useless. It would take valuable resources away from more worthwhile ones. Recently, the respected Grattan Institute produced some sobering and disheartening research on how badly Australia evaluates transport infrastructure. It looked at all 836 projects that cost $20 million or more since 2001. Premature announcements – when a politician promises to build a road, bridge or rail line without a funding commitment, often in the run-up to an election – caused three-quarters of the $28 billion in cost overruns, yet they comprised less than a third of the projects, the research found.
In short, when proper analysis is done before a commitment is given, projects generally run on time and on budget. The Grattan Institute said, “All main political parties have committed to sound planning of infrastructure, and to making decisions with broad social benefit, yet in practice they continue to promise projects that Infrastructure Australia (IA) has not evaluated or has already found to be not worth building.”
The Australian Logistics Council (ALC) has long supported IA and the need to do proper cost-benefit analyses, particularly as infrastructure funds are getting harder to find and the freight task in Australia is growing rapidly.
The ALC has a major role in making the public aware not only of the need to build the infrastructure required, but also of the need to avoid diverting precious funds into projects that have low or even negative economic return.
Ultimately, politicians in a democracy must make the decisions on what infrastructure to build. However, by ensuring the information is out there on how wasteful and irresponsible bad decisions can be, they can be constrained from making them.
Former Infrastructure Minister and Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson has made a spirited case for the Inland Rail Project because IA has, on the most conservative projections, proved its economic value. Even such an obvious candidate as Inland Rail – connecting not just Melbourne and Brisbane but also, via Parkes, Adelaide, Darwin and Perth – faces political difficulty through lack of national coordination.
Anderson’s environmental and safety case for Inland Rail was also impressive, but without a national strategic context the argument is in danger of being lost.
Of course, Australia faces an extra difficulty beyond identifying economically sound infrastructure projects: a three-tier federal system of government – each having the capacity to make things difficult for the development of national infrastructure.
Local governments can impose load limits and curfews on their roads to appease their ratepayers, but at a cost to the national supply chain. They can also oppose freight-related proposals and allow development in places that should be preserved for future transport corridors.
A classic example is the opposition to the development of the Moorebank Intermodal Terminal in Western Sydney.
State governments can also change land uses and produce transport plans that end at their borders with the aim of serving their own cities and towns, without reference to national freight requirements.
This state of affairs cries out for the development of a coordinated national freight and supply chain strategy to embrace not only new infrastructure but also the uniform regulation of all transport modes to reduce compliance costs.
When people bemoan the lack of national productivity reform, the logical industry to take on a national focus is Australia’s freight industry, which represents 8.6 per cent of the national economy.
It obviously has to be led by the Federal Government, which raises about 70 per cent of revenue in Australia. If it lacks constitutional power to legislate, it can use its financial power to persuade. It can also persuade the states to rein in local governments’ predilection for ratepayer interests over national freight needs.
Some progress has been made with the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator whereby a national scheme has begun using mirror state-by-state legislation.
Last year, further progress was made with the abolition of the Road Safety
Remuneration Tribunal, something ALC opposed from the beginning. The tribunal had less to do with road safety than with being an industrial-relations exercise on driver pay. Progress like this, however incremental, requires sustained, industry-wide, evidence-based advocacy. But there is a long way to go.
The crying need for a national freight and supply chain strategy has prompted ALC to make the theme of its annual ALC Forum this year: Getting the Supply Chain Right. This is not about ‘players’ in an industry. It is a highlevel, intelligent discussion about national functionality. In the past, the ideas emerging from the Forum have significantly influenced national thinking, and will continue to do so.
When issues are fleshed out in detail the results usually carry more weight.
A national freight and supply chain strategy must also deal with financing.
Corridors cannot be preserved and bottlenecks removed without money. There is no point in building a grand piece of infrastructure if the linking bits are missing.
In 2014 and 2015, ALC and others were promoting the use of ‘asset recycling’ as a means of getting more into the infrastructure funding pool. The idea was that governments would sell existing working assets and then use the money to invest in new infrastructure where the private sector was not willing or able to.
The advantage of governments doing start-ups is that it can get the finance using low interest rates and high credit ratings. It can sustain the great risk in any new infrastructure project. But once built and functioning, the government is often not especially good at running such infrastructure. Rules-based bureaucracies avoid risk, cover their patch and are not especially interested in seizing opportunities to innovate and expand. At that stage, governments should sell and use the money for the next initiative.
A national freight and supply chain strategy would provide a better framework for asset recycling.
The ALC has constantly urged that the provision of supply-chain infrastructure and logistics be above politics. The supply chain is national – the freight task is national. It does not stop at state borders and it requires vision that can be delivered by a national freight and supply chain strategy.

Australian rail industry supports global marking standard

The Australasian Railway Association (ARA) and GS1 Australia have announced that the ARA Board recently confirmed its support for the adoption of GS1 open global standards for identifying and marking (barcoding and/or tagging) components used across the Australian rail industry.
The decision by the ARA Board has been driven by the industry-wide Parts and Components Identification Project in rail that commenced in 2015, followed by the launch of the new Implementation Guideline for the Effective Management of Inventory in the Australian Rail Industry at AusRAIL 2016. The Australian Rail Industry is now being called to respond to a Call to Action to standardise the way materials are identified.
Danny Broad, CEO, Australasian Railway Association, said the announcement by the ARA Board to support the adoption of common standards is a significant milestone for Australia’s rail industry.
“We invite the Australian rail industry to join us in embracing a Call to Action to reduce costs, improve safety, reliability and quality using GS1 standards. The adoption of GS1 standards will provide a common framework to support the current challenge of managing efficient Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) processes,” Broad said.
The objective of the Call to Action initiative is to implement GS1 standards across the Australian Rail Industry by 1 January 2019. This initiative is important from the perspective of quality assurance traceability and cost savings, the ARA and GS1 said in a joint statement, adding that the implementation of GS1 standards across the Australian rail industry is a critical foundation for the subsequent phase of full-lifecycle tracking of components from acquisition to disposal – essential for the effective implementation of ISO55000 Asset Management Standards.
Maria Palazzolo, Executive Director and CEO at GS1 Australia, said, “A level of effort will be required for the implementation of these standards as many rail operators, suppliers, manufacturers and contractors are at various stages of barcoding their products, with some rail organisations already well advanced and actively working with their suppliers.”
Bonnie Ryan, Senior Manager – Trade, Transport & Heavy Industry, GS1 Australia added, “Calling on industry players to work with us gives the Australian rail industry a unique opportunity to collaborate with a standardised approach for consistently identifying and marking components and assets.”

Australian rail industry celebrates safety awareness day

The Australian and New Zealand rail industries celebrated the third annual Rail R U OK?Day on Thursday, 20 April, with celebrations across Australasia.
The Rail R U OK?Day initiative has been designed to help create a more supportive environment for the rail industry, as rail workers are sometimes exposed to trauma on the job.
The TrackSAFE Foundation has been tackling the issue by encouraging rail workers to deepen workplace conversations and help colleagues open up and support each other.
“Rail R U OK?Day has helped the rail industry proactively address suicide on our networks in an attempt to reduce the number of incidents, while at the same time mitigating the trauma caused to rail employees, families and communities,” said Bob Herbert AM, Chairman, TrackSAFE Foundation. “We strive to create healthy and resilient workplaces by empowering coworkers to support one another and continually check in, asking one simple question – ‘Are you ok?’
“We’re proud to celebrate our third annual industry-wide Rail R U OK? day. It is an important opportunity to convince workmates that they can make a real difference to someone who is struggling by having genuine conversations,” he added.
League legend and R U OK? Ambassador Brett Finch spoke to workers at the event.
“I know about the trauma and tragedy that can happen on Australian rail networks,” he said, prior to the event. “My father-in-law works on the rail and I know first-hand the life changing experiences he’s been through and the impact it has had not only on him, but also his family.
R U OK? CEO Brendan Maher says he is proud of the successful collaboration between TrackSAFE and the suicide prevention charity.
“The R U OK? ethos has really been embraced by rail networks around Australia and more recently New Zealand,” he said. “Rail workers witness some heartbreaking incidents on the job and by supporting each other everyone is better off at work and also at home.
“Rail R U OK? Day is a reminder to all rail workers to check in not just on the big day but anytime someone looks like they’re struggling.”
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull released a statement on the morning of R U OK?Day:
“So many Australians have been touched by the trauma of suicide – be it the loss of a friend, family member, neighbour or work colleague.
“Each death, with its devastating personal, social and economic impacts, constitutes an awful and unacceptable tragedy that leaves us wondering if we could have done more.
“Sadly, so many of you in this industry know only too well the ripple effect of suicide on the wider community. Being so often the first responders to incidents on the rail, you are well aware of the potential for severe mental, physical and emotional trauma for those involved.
“Given the stressors that rail industry staff are exposed to, it is heartening to see you take steps to create safer, stronger and more supportive workplaces, while addressing the stigma surrounding the mental health impacts of exposure to such incidents.
“This Rail R U Ok? Day I encourage everyone to reach out to colleagues who are doing it tough, to start the conversation about mental health, and to work together to save lives.
“Through coordinated efforts, let us ensure that the years ahead mark a turning point for suicide and poor mental health, as we progress towards creating a more caring and resilient society.”

Road Freight NSW aligns with steel expert

Road Freight NSW (RFNSW) has strengthened its membership with the announcement of a new partnership with BlueScope Steel (BlueScope).
“BlueScope is one of Australia’s largest manufacturers, and our new partnerships enables RFNSW to work with them and all of our members on key transport matters affecting New South Wales,” said Simon O’Hara, General Manager, RFNSW. “It gives legitimacy, credibility and industry partnership for RFNSW.”
According to BlueScope, the partnership with RFNSW enables the business to be part of a  “vibrant logistics industry organisation” and offers the opportunity to share best practices with the growing road freight industry.
“BlueScope are committed to consistently improving their performance and their safety on the road, and the road freight industry can learn valuable insights from this leading organisation,” O’Hara said.
“BlueScope moves 4.2 million tonnes by road, and 2.4 million tonnes in NSW – and we are delighted they have decided to join RFNSW as one of our partners.
“This collaboration will ensure that a stronger voice is heard from operators across the country.”

Cold logistics facilities in Melbourne, Brisbane sold for $73m

Financial services company Deutsche Asset Management (Deutsche AM) purchased two logistics facilities located in Melbourne and Brisbane from Australian real estate investment trust PropertyLink on Monday 14 February.
The US$56.07 million ($73 million) transaction was conducted off-market on behalf of a German institutional client.
The facilities located in Derrimut, Melbourne, and Parkinson, Brisbane, offer a total of 64,000sqm over two single-story warehouses with offices and parking.
The purchase follows Deutsche AM’s acquisition of a grade-A logistics warehouse in Tokyo in December.
The cold-storage facilities in Melbourne and Brisbane were originally designed for refrigerated interstate transport and warehousing company Rand Transport, and were purpose-built in 2010 to connect to the local port, airport, railway stations and major transport routes in both Melbourne and Brisbane.
“We are pleased to add Rand Transport’s facilities to our portfolio,” said Victoria Sharpe, Head of Real Estate – Asia Pacific, Deutsche Asset Management. “With good quality, cold storage accommodation in prime Australian locations in small supply, over the long term we expect the assets to deliver stable cash flows with low volatility in line with the strategy for our investors.”

NSW Trains CEO steps down

Rob Mason, Chief Executive of NSW Trains, will step down from the organisation after a long career in the rail sector, including the last three-and-a-half years as the first CEO of NSW Trains.
Following an 18-year career in senior roles in the London Underground, Mason joined RailCorp in 2005 as Group General Manager of Train Services, and was CEO from 2008 to 2013.
Secretary of Transport for NSW, Tim Reardon, thanked Mason for serving the people of NSW for more than a decade. “Over the last three-and-a-half years, Rob has successfully established NSW Trains as a customer-focused organisation, delivering improvements to customer service, increasing patronage on intercity services and reconnecting the organisation with the regional and rural communities it serves,” he said. “Rob has made a significant contribution to transport in this state and I wish him well for the future.”
Reardon said that Sydney Trains CEO Howard Collins has been asked to take on the additional role of Acting Chief Executive of NSW Trains to help retain the successful structure and separate operations of Sydney Trains and NSW TrainLink. The announcement today will simply change the executive reporting lines to focus accountability for delivering the NSW Government’s More Train, More Services program over the short term, he explained.
“More than $1.5 billion will be invested over the next three years on the More Trains, More Services program, which will boost capacity through hundreds of extra services, better infrastructure and new trains,” Reardon added. “With such incredible customer growth, more than ever, the successful delivery of the Government’s massive investment to improve the rail network, which includes a new timetable to be implemented later this year, will require Sydney Trains and NSW Trains to continue to work together in a coordinated way.”
Peter Allaway, the current Executive Director of Customer Service Delivery, will be appointed as Chief Operating Officer and take responsibility for day-to-day management of NSW Trains, reporting directly to Collins.

ALC calls on Government to support Inland Rail in Budget

The Australian Logistics Council (ALC) has called on the Federal Government to commit funding for the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail project in their 2017–2018 budget submission.
“The Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail Project has been positively assessed by Infrastructure Australia, Australia’s impartial infrastructure umpire, and has been listed on Infrastructure Australia’s Infrastructure Priority List,” said Michael Kilgariff, Managing Director, ALC. “ALC firmly believes that major projects need to have an independent detailed cost-benefit analysis. Inland Rail has a positive cost-benefit analysis, and the government now needs to demonstrate its commitment to the project by funding construction.
“Currently, all rail freight from Melbourne to Brisbane has to travel through the congested Sydney rail network, where passenger trains get priority. Inland Rail will reduce freight travel times from Melbourne to Brisbane to less than 24 hours.
“Last year, the Federal Government provided further funding for planning and pre-construction works. Now is the time to commit money to building the project,” he said.
Kilgariff noted renewed calls for High Speed Rail (HSR) as federal parliament resumes this week. “It is important to remember that HSR has never been thoroughly examined and prioritised by Infrastructure Australia, a body designed to take the politics out of infrastructure,” he said.
Kilgariff also provided caution about plans to ‘value capture’ increases in land prices to fund infrastructure – as shown in ALC’s submission to the Federal Government discussion paper Using Value Capture to Help Deliver Major Land Transport Infrastructure last year.
“Proponents often couch big infrastructure proposals as ‘no cost to government’. However taxpayers are inevitably asked to contribute and they are entitled to value for money,” he added.
“Inland Rail has been proven to be the right rail investment for Australia. It’s time to begin building it,” Kilgariff said.

Deutsche Bahn CEO resigns

After eight years in the role, Dr Rüdiger Grube has resigned as CEO of rail giant Deutsche Bahn. While no reason was given by Deutsche Bahn in an official statement, International Business Times reports that an unnamed source has revealed that Grube’s departure has come as a result of a pay dispute.
The source claims that an offer of a two-year renewal of Grube’s contract was not enough to keep him after he had asked for a three-year contract renewal and a pay increase.
According to a brief statement released by Deutsche Bahn, its supervisory board unanimously approved Grube’s request to terminate his appointment without delay with immediate effect and to terminate his current contract by means of a resolution agreement.
“The Supervisory Board would like to thank Dr Grube for his unusually great commitment to the company in the past eight years,” the statement noted. The board will immediately decide on a successor and, in accordance with the rules of procedure, Dr Richard Lutz will take over the position of Chairman of the Executive Board.
Chairman of the Supervisory Board, Utz-Hellmuth Felcht, said, “Dr Rüdiger Grube has made a lasting contribution, especially with regard to the future of DB. The digitisation of the DB is also linked to its name, as is the quality program ‘Zukunft Bahn’.”

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