Call for private sector interest to reopen Cowra Lines

 
  boromisa Junior Train Controller

Call for private sector interest to reopen Cowra Lines
Minister for Roads and Ports Duncan Gay today called for registrations of interest from the private sector to restore, operate and maintain 200 kilometres of rail line between Blayney and Demondrille – commonly known as the ‘The Cowra Lines’.
Minister Gay said there has been widespread support from local councils and Mayors to reopen the Cowra Lines after they were closed in 2007 because of poor coordination between asset managers, high operating costs and low freight volumes.
"The NSW Liberals and Nationals have listened to and acted on the calls of Central West councils and businesses for the government to work closely with the private sector to gauge interest and investigate if the Cowra Lines can be reopened and made commercially sustainable," Minister Gay said.

"The NSW Government is committed to ensuring rural and regional rail and road infrastructure – like the Cowra Lines – is connected to provide a high performance transport network to drive economic growth.

"Since winning office in March 2011, the Liberals & Nationals Government has placed freight at the forefront of our economy. We’ve already achieved many firsts, including establishing a dedicated Freight and Regional Development division within Transport for NSW and developing the first Freight and Ports Strategy in the state’s history," he said.

Minister Gay said council involvement will be essential to make sure the local road network connects efficiently to intermodal terminals located on the rail lines, so regional businesses and primary producers can more efficiently move goods to market.
"The Cowra Lines project is an important and innovative pilot that could help pave the way for other parts of the state’s rail and road freight and transport network," Minister Gay said.

Transport for NSW is calling for Registrations of Interest from suitably qualified parties to restore, maintain and operate the railway lanes from Blayney to Demondrille as well as between Koorawatha to Greenthorpe on a commercially sustainable basis under a fixed term licence.

This follows a Memorandum of Understanding between the NSW Government and the Blayney, Cowra, Harden, Weddin and Young Shire Councils signed in July 2013 to investigate how a regulatory and operating model for the lines could be improved.
More information is available on the NSW eTendering website at https://tenders.nsw.gov.au/. The deadline for registrations is 5:00 pm EST on 4 October 2013.

Call for private sector interest to reopen Cowra Lines (pdf 96KB)



2 September 2013

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  boromisa Junior Train Controller

The Cowra Lines are part of the Country Regional Network (CRN) which is owned by Transport for NSW (TfNSW). The Cowra Lines are currently non-operational having been gradually suspended from operation between 2007 and 2009. The Cowra Lines include 175km of Class three lines between Blayney and Demondrille and an additional 25km of Class five lines between Koorawatha and Greenethorpe.

The successful bidder for the Cowra Lines will be granted rights to restore, operate and maintain the Cowra Lines under a licence for a fixed term.

It is expected that the successful bidder will fully fund restoration and recurrent capital works for the Cowra Lines. The existing operations and maintenance contractor for the CRN, John Holland Pty Ltd, will have the Cowra Lines removed from the scope of its contract with TfNSW.

The purpose of this RoI is to allow TfNSW to:

•           identify and establish interaction with suitable respondents;

•           encourage the development of a competitive field for a future Expressions of Interest (EoI) process, if required; and

•           to identify a minimum level of commercial interest in the project to support an EoI process.

Following this RoI TfNSW may:

•           not continue the Cowra Lines Project if there is insufficient market interest;

•           enter direct negotiations with a respondent over a licence to restore, operate and maintain the Cowra Lines for a fixed term; or

•           where two or more suitable respondents are identified, progress towards an EoI.

https://tenders.nsw.gov.au/?event=public.rft.show&RFTUUID=C7773BEF-AFC5-AC32-735EED1690EC67CB
  wally-wowser1 Train Controller

Location: overlooking the Mt vic washaway on Soldiers Pinch
Wait & see, its just pandering to the local masses in that district.  This is the same Duncan Gay who  stated on a local radio station in Newcastle that the removal of certain road speed cameras on Maitland Rd at Sandgate were going to be removed because the Auditor General had advised that motorists were doing the right thing  in this location & there was no financial or road worthy need to remain  at Sandgate  & the very next day were replaced with smaller covert cameras in the same place.  Yes a play on words  because the original cameras were removed  but there was NO mention of replacement cameras being installed  in the same position.

Never Trust Politicians.


Wally.
  MD Chief Commissioner

Location: Canbera
Wait & see, its just pandering to the local masses in that district.  This is the same Duncan Gay who  stated on a local radio station in Newcastle that the removal of certain road speed cameras on Maitland Rd at Sandgate were going to be removed because the Auditor General had advised that motorists were doing the right thing  in this location & there was no financial or road worthy need to remain  at Sandgate  & the very next day were replaced with smaller covert cameras in the same place.  Yes a play on words  because the original cameras were removed  but there was NO mention of replacement cameras being installed  in the same position.

Never Trust Politicians.


Wally.
wally-wowser1
I dont understand whats even been proposed here.
What does operating a railway line mean?
Will the potential operator have to foot the bill for fixing up the existing line ?
Doesnt make any sense.
  Toddy Train Controller

I will fall off my chair if any private company finds it feasible to rebuild, maintain and operate those lines. Fully integrated operations haven't had much success in Australia and surely it wouldn't on that tiny network. Fully integrated failures can be seen with Tasmania and Victoria buying the tracks back and to a degree in South Australia with a few line closures by the operator.  It would be a struggle just to make a profit from operating on it let alone rebuilding it and maintaining especially with the tunnel problems at Carcoar? And I imagine the large bridge at Cowra would require some work.
  boromisa Junior Train Controller

"It is expected that the successful bidder will fully fund restoration and recurrent capital works for the Cowra Lines"
Unless there is an up front cash injection from either state or local govt no one will do it.

I can only see LVR as an interested party, they need access to Cowra and also have a freight business.

However, unless someone is ready to front up the money this is just another spin. BTW shouldn't this be done by minister for transport and not the minister for roads?
  a6et Minister for Railways

While on the surface the proposal prospect of the opening of the lines may seem doubtful much would depend on how much local support from businesses there is, & likely to be if the line is opened.  

One thing though is that all the local & surrounding councils have called for it for some time, it has also had a fair amount of backing from many businesses in the districts, given that Cowra is a rich cropping area & no longer just wheat there is definitely potential.  My last visit to the area a couple of years back showed a much larger town than used to be there as well as much of the freight work was carried by interstate as well as Sydney transport companies, something common in the smaller to mid sized towns as their trucking firms get taken over by the city ones.  Not many local jobs there compared to what could happen with rail.

There also has been proposals for other businesses as well, which could also be potential.

It certainly would be a big task for it to reopen, but I think it has more potential than a lot of other lines.

I also doubt if the Carcoar tunnel would be that big a concern, as there are still many other single line tunnels around the state that have the same dimensions that Carcoar does.  Besides that out of most of the single line tunnels across the state it probably would be the easiest one to get rid of anyway..
  Junction box Chief Commissioner

Location: newy
If it was profitable to run a railway corridor why wouldn't CRN re open the line themselves and make some money?
First you need interest from operators before you invest, not sure if John Holland would be interested.
  Newcastle Express Chief Commissioner

Trying to score political points for the federal election.

But the NSW "government" has given themselves an out, and which the NSW government most likely really want (ie: "their" result of the Murwillumbah Line for example)

Following this RoI TfNSW may:

•           not continue the Cowra Lines Project if there is insufficient market interest;
"The Cowra Lines tender"


But be that it may, they won't open them, as the line is in safe National &/or Liberal safe seats - one the reasons that the former Labor government closed them (oh I mean "suspended" them), as if the former NSW Labor punished them for having safe seats of the Nationals/Liberals.
  Sulla1 Chief Commissioner

I dont understand whats even been proposed here.
What does operating a railway line mean?
Will the potential operator have to foot the bill for fixing up the existing line ?
Doesnt make any sense.
MD
The best I can tell, it's an offer of exclusive franchise - you lease, you fix it, you run it and you don't have to worry about another operator showing up to take your business under the current open access regime. North American shortline operators with an Australian presence and the cash to fix the lines - G&W and Watco - could become interested parties if this is indeed an offer of exclusive franchise.
  boromisa Junior Train Controller

Trying to score political points for the federal election.

But be that it may, they won't open them, as the line is in safe National &/or Liberal safe seats - one the reasons that the former Labor government closed them (oh I mean "suspended" them), as if the former NSW Labor punished them for having safe seats of the Nationals/Liberals.
Newcastle Express

People in country do not do themselves any favours by voting for Nationals all the time. Especially provided that so may seats are safe National.

Nationals, in my view, sell out their constituents to the big end of the town. It is more about Liberal agenda then National (country).

For that reason there is a lack of investment by both sides. LNP takes them for granted and ALP simply does not pay any attention to it since there is no votes. After all you should be looking after people who elected you in the first place.

If they were little smarter and made some of these seats a tad marginal perhaps they would get some of the infrastructure they deserve.

Saddly, that's how politics work.
  BDA Chief Commissioner

Location: Sydney
I agree with A6 , there is certainly potential to re open the Demondrille Blayney line but the likelihood will depend upon people in that area making traffic volume available to rail .
I know someone who grew up in that part of the world and is a career engineman of many years . He has work over that line in the past so knows what's possible .
I asked him about potential traffic and it sounds like mainly grain and ore . I also remember talk of a large frozen vegie joint out that way who is interested in using rail to transport produce to Melbourne .
Operationally the line is supposed to be like a saw blade as in 1:40 grades both ways and economically run freight trains won't be a full load for a pair of billy carts - not that there's going to be many 48s left in the future .
Just yesterday I was speaking to someone who reckons the gear to grab would be the low profile concrete sleepers stacked up along the main southern line in NSW and possibly the 2nd hand 94 pound rail being replaced in Victoria . If the price was right you can run virtually any mainline engine on the national standard gauge over it and at quite reasonable speeds . It'd be sort of like what the Junee -  Griffith or Cooota West - Parkes areas have been like perway wise .
A provider wouldn't these days think of Staff working and possibly implement some form of Train Order working .
And the tunnel , it was mentioned that it's the mouth of the tunnel that is the heritage listed part rather than the curved peaked hole through the hill itself . With care the tunnel could be shortened removing clearance issues for todays longer taller loaded wagons .

I believe with local support and investment the Cowra line can run again but not if it costs what say TF NSW is used to paying for infrastructure works . It does not need a champas budget if basic sound perway is provided based on sound cost effective materials .
The formation is mostly adequate aside from a few wash aways so it's not like building a completely new railway .
The question is how badly the people in that area want the railway operating and what they're are prepared to stump up to make it a reality .
  Sulla1 Chief Commissioner

I know it's not much of a hill that tunnel goes through, is there a low cost potential to bypass the tunnel?
  boromisa Junior Train Controller


The formation is mostly adequate aside from a few wash aways so it's not like building a completely new railway .
The question is how badly the people in that area want the railway operating and what they're are prepared to stump up to make it a reality .
BDA
I read the submissions that councils did to govt and few big businesses sent in letters that they would use the railway if it was operational and competitive.

Councils seem to be pretty keen as well which is unusual.
  Albert Chief Commissioner

I know it's not much of a hill that tunnel goes through, is there a low cost potential to bypass the tunnel?
Sulla1

No. There are hills on both sides.

Cheap option would be the open the tunnel and build a bridge for the highway. Cheaper option would be to drop the floor.
  a6et Minister for Railways

I agree with A6 , there is certainly potential to re open the Demondrille Blayney line but the likelihood will depend upon people in that area making traffic volume available to rail .
I know someone who grew up in that part of the world and is a career engineman of many years . He has work over that line in the past so knows what's possible .
I asked him about potential traffic and it sounds like mainly grain and ore . I also remember talk of a large frozen vegie joint out that way who is interested in using rail to transport produce to Melbourne .
Operationally the line is supposed to be like a saw blade as in 1:40 grades both ways and economically run freight trains won't be a full load for a pair of billy carts - not that there's going to be many 48s left in the future .
Just yesterday I was speaking to someone who reckons the gear to grab would be the low profile concrete sleepers stacked up along the main southern line in NSW and possibly the 2nd hand 94 pound rail being replaced in Victoria . If the price was right you can run virtually any mainline engine on the national standard gauge over it and at quite reasonable speeds . It'd be sort of like what the Junee -  Griffith or Cooota West - Parkes areas have been like perway wise .
A provider wouldn't these days think of Staff working and possibly implement some form of Train Order working .
And the tunnel , it was mentioned that it's the mouth of the tunnel that is the heritage listed part rather than the curved peaked hole through the hill itself . With care the tunnel could be shortened removing clearance issues for todays longer taller loaded wagons .

I believe with local support and investment the Cowra line can run again but not if it costs what say TF NSW is used to paying for infrastructure works . It does not need a champas budget if basic sound perway is provided based on sound cost effective materials .
The formation is mostly adequate aside from a few wash aways so it's not like building a completely new railway .
The question is how badly the people in that area want the railway operating and what they're are prepared to stump up to make it a reality .
BDA
Cowra used to be home to the primary Edgell's processing plant, not sure how much went by rail though.
Today there is still a good sized & working abattoirs/meat works there, also an export facility at Young.

Grain has certainly diversified from primarily wheat, some oats & barley to include substantial amounts of canola, which I understand goes to Tamworth for Processing, thus a possibility to rail from Cowra.

In the Young news release shown on the current home page of RP, it mentions mining as well.  There are issues I have heard about the Blayney Container terminal needing expansion but a lot of community resistance to it, with a proposal to open a terminal in the Cowra area to rail it out rather than the current road transport to Blayney, that may have all changed now though.

The primary issue with the line is the old ROW, as well as the old rail & sleepers, as BDA has suggested there are a lot of used concrete sleepers that could be sourced & used on the line, likewise heavier rail that is past main line high speed use but certainly suitable for the rebuilding on this line.  A lift to a standard 94lb rail & concrete sleepers could very well elevate the overall speeds & timetabling on the line.

Some of the grades & washed away sections could be readily eased & improved with better abutement & water course improvements, but as has been an argument on the main southern line, nature always is a problem especially when heavy storms which caused the problems come into play.  But how often do they & how many times has it happened along the line over the years anyway?

Much of the freight task available from the area is no longer purely seasonal, & even grain types are also grown across a season, as is the aspect that the Cowra area has always been a good vegetable growing area, thus the processing availability.

The Carcoar Tunnel, is not such an easy problem to resolve especially if there is a heritage listing on it.  If the tunnel was to remain for rail use then the lowering of the floor would be the easiest & cheapest solution, but if the line was to increase its potential on that end, if demolition was not possible, then a deviation to the western side of the line in a cutting with a bridge for the road over it, would provide a benefit for a straighter run as well as eliminating in part the heavy grade as well.

Cowra also over the years has had a reasonable tourist industry, try getting a room in a hotel/motel or spot in a camping/caravan park in the cherry blossom time.  As its a pleasant time of the year, a good opportunity to run a special cherry blossom train with sleepers & provide a full accommodation service with the train stabled at the platform & used as a travelling motel.

I guess one problem that could surface is the amount of paths that would be available on the South, as much of the traffic would possibly be aimed at Export & therefore PTK as the shortest route.  Although having the full line open allows for the under used Western line to be used but it adds to the time & therefor cost, yet even in earlier times before the Blayney end was closed, there was much more traffic on that end, than on the Harden end.


There are possibilities for the line, & dare I even suggest for the line as far as Canownindra also in the longer term.
  boromisa Junior Train Controller

Rail breakthrough

By  Christine Speelman Sept. 4, 2013, 9:07 a.m

http://www.youngwitness.com.au/story/1752414/rail-breakthrough/?cs=1288
  MD Chief Commissioner

Location: Canbera
Exactly what Breakthru are we talking about?
Does anyone even know what the cost of re opening this line actually is ?

Maybe I should start calling for someone to reopen and operate the Hillston to Roto line.
I can think of lots of viable reasons for doing so such as
1/ I think it would fantastic.
2/ If the line were re opened someone would want to use it.
3/ Railfans could run lots of fan trips.

I seem to remember a similar hyped up justification for re opening the Tumut line some years ago
to take all the trucks off the road that were needed to service the new Kraft Pulp mill that was being built there.
Economic reality doesnt seem to be a strong point for railfans.
  nswtrains Chief Commissioner

Exactly what Breakthru are we talking about?
Does anyone even know what the cost of re opening this line actually is ?

Maybe I should start calling for someone to reopen and operate the Hillston to Roto line.
I can think of lots of viable reasons for doing so such as
1/ I think it would fantastic.
2/ If the line were re opened someone would want to use it.
3/ Railfans could run lots of fan trips.

I seem to remember a similar hyped up justification for re opening the Tumut line some years ago
to take all the trucks off the road that were needed to service the new Kraft Pulp mill that was being built there.
Economic reality doesnt seem to be a strong point for railfans.
MD
Not forgetting the money spent on the Wallerawang to Mudgee line which now only remains partially open to serve a couple of coal mines. Also the Mudgee residents do not want the line upsetting their Sylvan existence.
  chuffa Junior Train Controller

Unless someone wants to use this line and pay for it, its not going to re open.
LVR might use some of it but if they dont have the cash to open it to the main line it will stay as is.
  a6et Minister for Railways

If people had an understanding of the actual district of Cowra & surrounds, they would be surprised at what traffic not only used to be generated in the area but what is now available.  Comparing the Mudgee line with this area is a chaulk & cheese situation.  What really is along the Mudgee line to generate traffic outside of the coal industry, now that the cement has gone from Kandos?

The residents of Mudgee from my understanding are in agreement with the lines opening but they do not want the heavy coal trains through the town, not much different to many other areas in the state now.  Even the area west of Mudgee really does not hold much scope for a freight revival either except of course coal, so catch 22 comes in.  Mudgee's only other real business is the wine industry, along with tourism, so not much hope in that area for rail freight business.

The so called breakthrough with link was also posted on the opening front page of Railpage, which I deferred to with my previous post.  What I suggest the breakthrough that is being referred to is that for the various councils in the area that their hard work in trying to promote the re-opening of the line has in some ways paid off with the government taking steps to allow it to open if they can get an operator that takes full charge of the line.

To use the opening of the Hillston Roto connecting line with this project is more laughable than using the Mudgee example, that line was only a somewhat connection for some use in connecting services along the Broken Hill line.  Even back in the 60's when a goods service ran it was cancelled more often than not when no wagons were booked for it, even the RM service had reached its use by date with the SCC connection providing no patronage.

Likewise the Tumut line proposal was supposed to have been investigated by the owners at Tumut for the traffic generation, they were prepared to pay towards the restoring of the line but the big hurdle was the Gundagai bridge.  With any sort of heritage listing of it kills the scheme without any thinking, the other problem also was the whole aspect of the line itself with tight curves & steep grades.  Outside of the logs & other timber products, there is not a lot of chance for rail to recapture the fruit market from there owing to the markets in Sydney having all the connections ripped up & no rail access.

One of the old problems with rail for export of ordinary products was the amount of handling, farm/factory etc. to rail head, transfer then to wharves more transfer often including double handling all with primary manual labour. Today with containers much of that double handling is eliminated, & what isn't is often made much easier.  Containers can be loaded at factory/farm lifted onto rail or if there is a siding straight into the container, (sure there is some shunting to be done for train consisting/marshalling) then direct to port, either straight to ship or placed in line for shipment.

That is something that has a benefit for rail, & there are lines in NSW that are closed that do have potential to be viable for re-opening & for me that is a positive. It is not being a foamer  or rail fan thing but a belief that there are areas in NSW that can support in a viable way retention & re-opening of some lines.  The one thing that has been said by the councils & others is of the benefits in this lines opening but, I also believe that this is likely to be the last window of opportunity to see the lines re-opening.
I think that all the associated & affected councils along with the various businesses & farmers & interests would have presented a fairly intensive case for the government to put this prospect out for tender, so lets at least see how it pans out before putting it down.
  cootanee Chief Commissioner

Location: Waiting for the sky to fall, the seas to rise... and seeing a train on the SSFL!
Exactly what Breakthru are we talking about?
Does anyone even know what the cost of re opening this line actually is ?
...
I seem to remember a similar hyped up justification for re opening the Tumut line some years ago
to take all the trucks off the road that were needed to service the new Kraft Pulp mill that was being built there.
Economic reality doesnt seem to be a strong point for railfans.
MD


Indeed. This latest thought bubble won't come to anything.

Over the past 5 years the road into Tumut received millions in federal and state funding to repair and upgrade it with more to come. The earlier work is already falling apart.
  Bevan Wall Deputy Commissioner

I think that this may be a classic case of "put up or shut up". If nobody comes forward to take up the offer, it then gives the "powers that be" the excuse to completely close the line, including going through the necessary parlimentary process, and dispose of any assetts, including land. I would expect the same thing to happen with other lines that are, and have been for quite a while. "mothballed".
BW
  Watson374 Chief Commissioner

Location: Fully reclined at the pointy end.
Exactly what Breakthru are we talking about?
Does anyone even know what the cost of re opening this line actually is ?

Maybe I should start calling for someone to reopen and operate the Hillston to Roto line.
I can think of lots of viable reasons for doing so such as
1/ I think it would fantastic.
2/ If the line were re opened someone would want to use it.
3/ Railfans could run lots of fan trips.

I seem to remember a similar hyped up justification for re opening the Tumut line some years ago
to take all the trucks off the road that were needed to service the new Kraft Pulp mill that was being built there.
Economic reality doesnt seem to be a strong point for railfans.
"MD"
Priceless! Mr. Green
  Jim K Train Controller

Location: Well west of the Great Divide in NSW but not as far as South Australia
$50-$100m to have this line back to operational condition. Can't see this will happen, all political spin of a Government that can go back to the polls saying "we did our best to get rail going again but the commercial side would not help us"

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