Funding floodgates open

Funding floodgates open

Queensland Transport and Logistics Council welcomes the federal government move to bring forward infrastructure funding commitments to stimulate the economy. For Queensland this includes a $1.9 billion road and rail package with $650 million funding brought forward and a new commitment of $680 million.

The Queensland Government has committed a further $606 million and estimates more than 7,200 jobs will be created. Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk called the historic deal a “huge win”.

“I have always said we work best when we work together and this proves it,” she said.

Queensland can expect a steady flow of road and rail upgrades over the next four years with 20 projects brought forward including M1, Bruce highway, Warrego highway, Cunningham highway and $90 million for the North Coast Rail Line Beerburrum and Nambour upgrade. Further detail on the breakdown of project spending can be found in the media release here.

The ABC reported that Queensland Transport Minister Mark Bailey said the arrangement was particularly successful because it involved a shift in a stalemate regarding the Inland Rail project.

“Inland Rail presents an opportunity to move more freight onto trains and take trucks off the roads”, he said.

“That becomes more important as South East Queensland continues to grow.

 “This deal also prioritises planning for the passenger rail services that will be needed to serve growing parts of South East Queensland, like the Salisbury to Beaudesert rail link.”

The Queensland section of this nation building rail project is significant with an estimated $7 billion greenfield investment including tunnelling through the Toowoomba Range.

There are many issues with Inland rail yet to be carefully navigated including the alignment of the Condamine flood plain section. Meaningful progress on these concerns can now be achieved with an agreement in place.

The CEO of ARTCs Inland Rail group, Richard Wankmuller said at the Inland Rail conference earlier in the year that ARTC had learned many lessons about consultation working with effected communities along the line.

Richard said he was not surprised by the anger expressed by Condamine producers about the rail alignment considering all other infrastructure projects have washed away during severe flooding events. The answer it seems is technology and advanced engineering see earlier article on the conference here.

The Port of Brisbane won’t miss out either with $20 million funding set aside for a detailed study into the rail connection to the port.

Port of Brisbane CEO Roy Cummins said the announcement is a step in the right direction.

Funding a business case will allow all parties to assess demand, financing, design and timing for this project. It should also lead to corridor preservation as an immediate priority.

Details are yet to be ironed out and no doubt a steady stream of project announcements will follow in coming weeks.

Inland Rail Nation Building

Inland Rail Nation Building

To build a nation you need conviction, charisma, and a good marketing team.

The scale of Inland Rail demands this from its proponents to engage government to commit $9.3 billion to the project, opening the door for private sector to invest and build the future corridor of commerce. Flat, straight and fast, travelling Melbourne to Brisbane approximately half a day faster than current transit time.

 ‘Let private investment out of the box and see what can be achieved’ was a sentiment expressed by many presenters at last week’s Inland Rail Conference.

Held in the regal and beautiful Empire Theatre Toowoomba the Inland Rail Conference was a fantastic demonstration of the vision and determination necessary to build a national intergenerational project of significance.

Partnerships, collaboration and community were a key theme of the two-day conference 21-22 August 2019. Mayors and local government councillors from the length of the project came and shared their vision for their communities and the growth opportunities the project offered. Participants in the panel discussions offered frank and open responses to the many questions asked and nations building taglines peppered keynote speeches.

The conference attracted 450 delegates to engage with the project proponents, network and consider opportunities the project offers. The focus was on future-proofing the workforce, addressing the estimated 70,000 skills gap which will peak in 2024 and how to sustain this workforce after completion 2027.

Adrian Hart, Associate Director, BIS Oxford Economics outlined the skills gap and extent of projects competing for similar skilled individuals. The following graph sums up the scale of the issue.

Major rail project outlook AustraliaSource BIS Oxford Economics – ARA Skills capability study 2018

A rail renaissance is underway in Queensland, with Inland Rail, Cross River Rail, Gold Coast Light Rail and upgrades to other sections of the freight and passenger rail network started or near completion. The scale of the greenfield Inland Rail project is enormous for Queensland. For example, the 7km tunnel through the Toowoomba Range will be one of the longest and largest tunnels in the southern hemisphere and the Condamine Flood Plain crossing an engineering marvel. These projects highlight the skills gap in Australia particularly in tunnelling, when you consider how many tunnels are currently being dug Australia wide.

The project proponents aim to provide a skills legacy for local communities and Australia as a whole. To achieve this, savvy local government economic development groups are priming their local industries and preparing them to tender for projects. Parks in NSW has been very successful in capturing the local value and building a portfolio of projects including advanced manufacturing, mining, solar and the Pacific National intermodal terminal. Toowoomba is also looking to capture and retain the $4 billion investment that will be flowing through the region.

Double stacked domestic container freight currently moving up and down the East Coast on a mix of truck (~7,000 B-doubles a day) and train, is the initial driver for the project. Bulk agricultural freight so important to regional areas, will also benefit from Inland Rail as CSIRO Andrew Higgins outline in the Inland Rail Supply Chain Mapping – Parkes to Narromine Pilot. CSIRO estimates an average $76 per tonne cost saving and 63,000 fewer heavy vehicle trips per year along sections of the Newell Highway.

Shift to Inland Rail

Condamine Flood Plain, an engineering triumph

Queensland will cover the largest and most complex section of greenfield development and landholders in the region have been extremely vocal in their rejection of the project. Graham Clapham Chair Southern Darling Downs Consultative Committee provided a landholder account of the impact the rail line will have on his community. He spoke eloquently about the miss communication and lack of understanding on both sides which led to a long period of anger, and how this is starting to be resolved.

It is very difficult for people who have owned a property for generations to accept a project that will use their land and irreversibly change the way they farm. Often, they support the project in principle but believe the engineers have it wrong and the alignment will not work on their land.

Condamine river







Source: The Chronicle

Richard Wankmuller, ARTC CEO, said he accepted the initial engagement was ill-informed and he understood why landholders were sceptical in the Condamine flood plain. For many generations any structures built were inevitably washed away so why would this be any different? The answer, it seems, is an ability to draw on examples of international engineering success and use these to build a bespoke solution.

Richard’s presentation is more than just words as the Inland Rail and ARTC team have committed to locating staff in the regions to build community support for the project and listen to concerns raised. They need landholders on side to progress the project and have taken time to re assess access arrangements and keep line of communication open.

Only $700 million has been spent so far leaving plenty more value to be captured by the freight and construction industry, landholders, skilled workers and regions in Queensland. The next step will be interesting to watch as Queensland takes on the Inland Rail challenge.

Recycled plastic railway sleepers laid in Victoria

Recycled plastic railway sleepers laid in Victoria

Recycled products are increasingly being used in road and rail infrastructure and it looks like Victoria is leading the way, trains travelling through Richmond in Victoria will now be running on railway sleepers made from recycled plastic as part of an 18 month trial.

For every kilometre of track installed, 64 tonnes of plastic waste that would otherwise have gone to landfill, will be recycled. That is an impressive reuse of waste product.

Read the full article from Transport and Logistics News.

Townsville’s ‘Pit to Port’ rail freight initiatives

Townsville’s ‘Pit to Port’ rail freight initiatives

Townsville is on a growth trajectory. The Port of Townsville welcomed the State Government budget announcement of $30 million towards a new $48 million common-user rail freight terminal at the port. 

As part of the ‘Pit to Port’ solutions, the terminal is designed to achieve modal shift from road to rail and will create 50 jobs during construction, with 45 jobs ongoing, reducing costs for mining companies and taking trucks off the roads.

Read the full article here.

Courtesy of Port of Townsville.