Inland Rail Going Round In Circles

 

News article: Inland Rail Going Round In Circles

[color=#000000][size=3][font=Calibri]As proposals for a Melbourne to Brisbane freight railcorridor creep back into the headlines once again, an interesting article has appeared in the newsletter of the Railway Technical Society of Australia’s (RTSA) Sydney chapter suggesting that all is not quite so clear cut when it comes to selecting the optimum route for the railway, Mark Carter writes.

  Trainplanner Chief Commissioner

Location: Along the Line
As proposals for a Melbourne to Brisbane freight railcorridor creep back into the headlines once again, an interesting article has appeared in the newsletter of the Railway Technical Society of Australia’s (RTSA) Sydney chapter suggesting that all is not quite so clear cut when it comes to selecting the optimum route for the railway, Mark Carter writes.

Behind the recent headlines has been the establishment latelast year by the Federal Government of an Inland Rail implementation group led by former transport minister John Anderson.

According to deputy prime minister Warren Truss, the group’sfirst priority will be to finally settle the alignment and reserve land for the route.
Inland Rail Going Round In Circles


I was fortunate enough to be working in one of the EasternStates transport agencies at the time that ARTC was commissioned to undertake the 2010 study which in effect was effectively a review of the proposal of the predecessor organization to GATR promoting the original Inland Rail Corridor Proposal. It was evident to me that ARTCvery much had an attitude of wanting to maximize use of its existing network between Melbourne and Parkes via Cootamundra and then essentially string together an alignment north of there using existing “branch or secondary” lines to the Queensland border, partial use of some of the Queensland Rail narrow gauge alignments to the Toowoomba area and then of course new construction to cross the range before connecting to the existing standard gauge into Brisbane.


I found this very disturbing. Notwithstanding that if I were ARTC I wouldwant to make use of the investment already made in upgrading existing infrastructure but more because that attitude reflects a lack of vision and foresight in failing to recognize that projects of this scale are really very strategic and that whatever the type of railway you end up with is based on even their own experience will be railway you are going to live with for well over a hundred years or longer. (Just look atSydney to Melbourne). This inland railproject will not be competing with the road industry as we see it today but increasing a road system that will see B triples travelling at 100km/hr between capitals in not that many years as seen by the “trials” being proposed on the Hume Freeway.


There appeared then in 2010 as there appears now nounderstanding of any lessons learned about getting this right the very first time and just as importantly that the alignment ARTC proposes for the Inland Railway effectively being a 21st century version of the current goattruck they already have on the east coast being heavily compromised in so many ways.


Importantly whilst referenced in the 2010 report not enoughattention or value has been placed on the substantial freight flows the ARTC proposal by passes that the GATR option picks up. For example the Goulburn Valley currentlygenerates around 350,000 TEU per annum of product of which only a small proportion goes by rail. Routing theInland Rail Corridor via the Shepparton area taps that market and allows it to be sent both north and south by rail to ports for export as well as domestic markets to the north.


Export traffic out of the Griffith area gets both areduction in distance and transit time going via Shepparton increasing its viability for train operators and potentially freight rates to shippers. The article also refers to the overallBrisbane to Melbourne corridor being 140km less with the GATR route which has to be hugely significant in journey time savings and fuel and maintenance costs. Again if it’s not done with thisproject we end up with the same issue asSydney to Melbourne today – rail being a longer corridor than road. The references in the article from ProfessorLaird put it forward so simply. It’s a nobrainer but not it seems to ARTC.


The next key point are the standards ARTC might (more likelywill propose) versus GATR. Withoutdoubt ARTC will upgrade/build this most likely to its current standards, structures suited for long term 30 tonne axleload but operating as a 25 tonne axeload railway versus 32.5 tonne axleload which is the North American standard now also being rolled out in the Middle East and elsewhere. The GATR presentations I have viewed talkabout unconstrained operation of trains being able to operate at higher and more continuous track speed than the ARTC option would propose. This impacts on rail and vehicle wear, fuelconsumption and very critically the cycle time of locomotive, train sets and crews. ARTC seem to be able to mouth thatthey understand this this in their media speak but actually don’t get it in practice.


Given the extent of “branchlines” that need to be upgradedthere is absolutely no doubt there will be huge problems with formation condition, drainage and alignment that will compromise the potential of this line that the GATR (and its predecessors) have been very strong in ensuring doesn’t occur with their option. Justthis week ATSB released the findings of quite a major derailment between Stockinbingal and Parkes caused by the failure of the formation contributed to by poor drainage etc that was referenced to the fact that this section was classified and operated as a branchline for roundly 70 years prior to it being “upgraded”. Given this derailment was on relativelyundulating tangent track how capable will the corridor north of Parkes etc be with many more kilometres of “branchline/secondary” line trackage. Will ARTC again using its now infamous sideinsertion sleeper change out technique that destroys the capping layer, subgrade and compromises the formation further as it has so successfully done with long term consequences between Melbourne and Sydney and elsewhere. Without doubt it will.


Yes the GATR proposal might be more expensive upfront butwithout doubt it will be a far higher performing, lower operating cost, more competitive railway than what ARTC propose and or display evidence of today.


But alas I fear the ARTC option will get the tick simplybecause it will be cheaper up front, yes it will increase rail market share but it will NEVER deliver the same long term benefits for decades to come because to quote the old saying it was done on the cheap using that wonderful clause “fit for purpose” approach. Sadly there arejust not the power brokers with knowledge of rail to strongly push Government to spend more for a longer term better outcome and objectively demonstrate that the ARTC model is flawed.

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  micksheedy Station Staff

Don't forget who is on this project, John Anderson, this project has no hope with him on board.
  freightgate Minister for Railways

Location: Albury, New South Wales
Brilliant post.

You of course make many excellent points.

I am now realising the Griffith and shepparton areas would potentially be large customers of an improved rail network. What is scary is the lack of rail use out of the goulburn valley. Is this because a lot of freight could go north instead of going south ?

A new alignment is certainly needed and as you say this is a project or another 100 years.
  djf01 Chief Commissioner

Don't forget who is on this project, John Anderson, this project has no hope with him on board.
micksheedy

All I can say is, I hope you're right!

IMHO this project is a boondoggle, making lots of rural LNP MPs happy, without achieving anything (positive).
  Trainplanner Chief Commissioner

Location: Along the Line
Just finished talking to a colleague heavily involved in this project. The GATR proposal enables a set of locomotives and wagons to achieve a full round trip every 48 hours versus every 72 hours for the ARTC option. This represents a huge saving in both capital and operating costs over the 30 year life of such assets. You would think rail operators and their customers would be screaming from the rafters for the higher standard option on the basis of the lowere cost and potentially huge increase in business it would bring. Are they blind or just don't get it. I'm sure SCT and QUBE do.
  YM-Mundrabilla Minister for Railways

Location: Mundrabilla but I'd rather be in Narvik
Who or what is GATR?
  12CSVT Chief Commissioner

Location: Drowning in accreditation red tape!
Who or what is GATR?
YM-Mundrabilla

Great Australian Trunk Rail System.

Link: http://www.gatr.com.au/
  YM-Mundrabilla Minister for Railways

Location: Mundrabilla but I'd rather be in Narvik
Great Australian Trunk Rail System.

Link: http://www.gatr.com.au/
12CSVT

Many thanks.
  Nightfire Minister for Railways

Location: Gippsland
Export traffic out of the Griffith area gets both areduction in distance and transit time going via Shepparton increasing its viability for train operators and potentially freight rates to shippers. The article also refers to the overallBrisbane to Melbourne corridor being 140km less with the GATR route which has to be hugely significant in journey time savings and fuel and maintenance costs. Again if it’s not done with thisproject we end up with the same issue asSydney to Melbourne today – rail being a longer corridor than road. The references in the article from ProfessorLaird put it forward so simply. It’s a nobrainer but not it seems to ARTC.
Trainplanner

Just how much would a standardised / rebuilt Mangalore - Tocumwal railway along with a total new rail route from Tocumwal towards Forbes cost and who will foot the bill ?

Many reports only talk about the Mangalore - Tocumwal railway and not the railway North of Tocumwal (The former NSWGR Tocumwal railway path makes It's way back to Junee (slower and less direct than via Albury) no direct link towards Parkes !

In the Governments eyes there Is already an Inland railway path from Melbourne to at least Dubbo (Moree)  ! why would anyone be pursuing a high cost additional path ? (yes It may be viable way way In the future)

The focus has to be on getting the Moree - Brisbane section built to get traffic up and going, then bypasses and diversions can be built than on as/if traffic grows.

If great demand for a rail path though Griffith and Shepparton becomes a reality than a grand project would seam likely to attract funding.

But they ain't going to spend up big first up on fixing something that ain't broke.

It may be longer via Junee, but this path Is available today and Is well used (and should be well maintained)
  RTT_Rules Dr Beeching

Location: Dubai UAE
I believe the current proposal makes use of much of the existing interstate infrastructure south of Parks thus lowering the costruction cost to something that might actually be funded. It also reduces duplication of trunk line corridores thus making the single route more viable even if it doesn't caputure as much traffic over all. There are better, straighter alignments, but all these come with larger $ price tags.

ARTC's main focus is on interstate freight, not regional to capital.

The route from Coota to Albury needs alot of money thrown at it to remove excess trackage (distance) and potentially duplicate in the future. It is the route between Melbourne and Sydney and Brisbane using both current and Inland rail proposals. It also enjoys some of the highest non bulk rail commodity tonnages in Australia. Sending the Inland further inland makes improvements in Sydney-Mel traffic near impossible as the cost to upgrade will be even less justified than now.

Lets just focus on getting the Inland built, then go from there. Some valid points have been made, but the funding is very limited.
  Trainplanner Chief Commissioner

Location: Along the Line
There is good merit in staging a project of this scale RTT but I'm still concerned that even doing the norther stage will see it heavily compromised in terms of alignment and axle load.  We only get one shot at infrastructure development of this scale and it really needs to be approaching North American standard  to really maximise its true capability. I have no doubt any more direct inland rail option will increase market share. It's inevitable when your coming off such an appallingly low base. But our mindset seems to be something is better than nothing rather than taking a more strategic long term approach to saying what do we need to have to get equivalent market share compared with say the east west corridor that is the current Australian benchmark.  Having a PPP  that can fund the additional expenditure to achieve the higher standard needed to achieve far greater market share on the basis that the returns could be higher is an option.  I see this past week report from Genesee and Wyoming commenting about work they have had to do since taking over Adelaide to Darwin on the basis that standards were compromised when it was built. Is this something the industry will set out to do again. Without doubt yes.
  Nightfire Minister for Railways

Location: Gippsland
There is good merit in staging a project of this scale RTT but I'm still concerned that even doing the norther stage will see it heavily compromised in terms of alignment and axle load. We only get one shot at infrastructure development of this scale and it really needs to be approaching North American standard to really maximise its true capability.
Trainplanner

Some will find out how to bread flying pigs before this type of thinking gets approved and built.

Alice to Darwin, West Footscray to Wodonga 1962 SG are fine examples of limited vision.
  RTT_Rules Dr Beeching

Location: Dubai UAE
There is good merit in staging a project of this scale RTT but I'm still concerned that even doing the norther stage will see it heavily compromised in terms of alignment and axle load. We only get one shot at infrastructure development of this scale and it really needs to be approaching North American standard to really maximise its true capability. I have no doubt any more direct inland rail option will increase market share. It's inevitable when your coming off such an appallingly low base. But our mindset seems to be something is better than nothing rather than taking a more strategic long term approach to saying what do we need to have to get equivalent market share compared with say the east west corridor that is the current Australian benchmark. Having a PPP that can fund the additional expenditure to achieve the higher standard needed to achieve far greater market share on the basis that the returns could be higher is an option. I see this past week report from Genesee and Wyoming commenting about work they have had to do since taking over Adelaide to Darwin on the basis that standards were compromised when it was built. Is this something the industry will set out to do again. Without doubt yes.
Trainplanner

NT line was built with numerous compromises to get the project across the line and even then it required $480m or the $1200m in a way of a CAPEX subsidy and further assistance later + handing over the line to Alice for peanuts. I don't think too many find the govt injection problematic as the line is doing its job opening mining oppurtunities, reducing fuel imports etc ie adding value to the economy. But future private investers in rail infrastructure will however note the project was still a commerical failure for the orginal investor selling it 5 years later for less than 50% of their investment.

One of the compromises I am aware of is the use of lighter rail on the basis if the traffic comes, the money to upgrade the rails will follow in the future but did not prevent Interstate standard axle loads, just constrained the top end speed at that axle load. Likewise passing loops. Not required if there is no traffic, so why build. Govt or private this would have happened.

The Inland will probably follow similar standards to NT line for double stacking and train length, but limited to (guess) 23t/axle at 80km/hr, 115km/hr for 19-21t/axle. There is no way this line can justify 35t axle loads. Personally I'd like to also see timed passing lanes at least 10km long every 100km or so. Additional passing loops in between. NT line does not justify passing lanes.

There will be alot of compromise to get this project up, but I believe unless they get sub 24hr Mel to Brisbane it will not be sucessful. Unfortunately in Australia rail funding is still seen has something govts reluctantly do so the project will not be silver or even bronze plated. Realistically for probably $20B of fed govt funding + additional money from states + private investment the eastern Interstate network including the route to Canberra could be made world class over a period of say 10years.
  Trainplanner Chief Commissioner

Location: Along the Line
I think the big difference between The Darwin railway and this proposal is that the traffic volumes and flows are already very well known and there is a significant amount of regional output to capture in addition to the long haul. I would think having knowledge of the significantly greater existing market plus factoring growth which is already reasonably understood puts this project in a stronger position.
  BDA Chief Commissioner

Location: Sydney
Hog wash , RTTs got it nailed for all the right reasons . IR proposed alignment is not very direct and still won't out run the rigs .
Twist left here right there and replicate much of the main southern line . Why ? Because the proposal is down to a price not up to a standard so the result will be compromised .

I think it's very one eyed to believe every kilo of freight along the route will magically leap onto rail , it hasn't happened on any other interstate rail route so how can you assume it will happen now ?
And same old same old broken record , clog up IR with rock and seed trains to pay the justifying access fees and you can kiss 24 hour inter capital transit times good bye .

If you're not going to use 60 kg/m rail on 30 TAL sleepers properly spaced with the appropriate base don't even bother turning the first sod . Branch lines in NSW are being re railed so branch line 80 odd tonne locos can finally go the way of their ancestors - the dinosaurs . The same view should be taken with sub sub 130 tonne "medium line" engines because they are not the now or the future . The future is 140+ gross tonne units because that's where train economic lie , building to out dated standards is useless and a waste of money .
And don't forget terminals because trucks don't reach their destinations with 60+ boxes to disgorge .
  Trainplanner Chief Commissioner

Location: Along the Line
BDA.  Hope your comment hohwash is not directed at me.  I'm the one advocating 32.5 tonne axleload and North American standards as per your post.  In other words on the same page.

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