Call for private sector interest to reopen Cowra Lines

 
  a6et Minister for Railways

The tender has been published at https://tenders.nsw.gov.au/?event=public.rft.show&RFTUUID=D331A166-CCAA-46D5-A827BD769850E949

- Again, it is made clear that the state government will not be contributing financially (but I don't see anything stopping a concessionaire from hitting up the relevant councils for a bit of pocket money).
- Time frame of the agreement up to the concessionaire. At the end of the time frame things get handed back to TfNSW and must be in the same or better condition than after the initial upgrade.

- They appear to want all of the lines to be brought back to operating status (though perhaps not necessarily all at once).

- They want lots of detail about the respondents' proposed business case (cost and revenue estimates with time). They want lots of detail about respondents' experience and capability, including financial depth, evidence that they have (or can relatively quickly get) accreditation, safety and environmental management systems, etc. The concessionaire may have to put up a security.

- It is suggested (in the draft deed - which the tender respondents can suggest changes to) that other entities be able to purchase access under a suggested agreement. (TfNSW may, and therefore the Cowra lines may, be subject to an access undertaking?)

- The draft deed says TfNSW can pay for enhancements if it wants them done. TfNSW gets to veto enhancements suggested by the concessionaire.

- The draft deed says the lines are subject to passenger priority and must be maintained capable of running passenger services at passenger service speeds. The draft deed struggles to keep a straight face while saying this.

- Whether advertising on the relevant land is permitted is yet to be decided.

There is a data room that requires signing of a confidentiality agreement with more information.

If, as suggested above, there is of the order of a hundred million dollars plus required for reinstatement work, then I don't see how the business case for this could work. Where's the revenue coming from?

I guess we'll find out in a few months.
donttellmywife

From what I read of the primary tender document as I could not past the sign in page, I don't see anything on your breakdown that is unusual except perhaps the 2 areas regarding enhancements, that being TfNSW can do their own if they pay for them if they choose to, & they also have the right to knock back enhancements it doesn't like.  A bit of a double edged sword.

That said, I can see they are wanting the tenderers to show their experience & intentions especially in regard to useage, the concept of ensuring the line is not just handed over with no real attempts to get it open in a viable manner & that is long term. In that concept, I would imagine all the so far businesses who have expressed support would need to now come forward & put their money & businesses where their mouths were.

The thought that comes to me is more along the line of where the primary inland route ends up, meaning the only cross country line that exists now if it ends up being part of that route & traffic forecasts for it become a reality, a 2nd or alternative option is opened with the full line being open.

The aspect of passenger grade, is also a possible part of that scenario, as it provides the option of using it to continue running passenger services, also perhaps freight services at higher speed, during main southern line shutdowns, a bonus if the old Demondrile triangle roads are put back into operation with a Southern line entry point for down services.

There is also the possibility that it includes the scope of tourism with the LVR & their operations if they go back to Cowra.

I would say that the most likely scenario for its reopening would be in stages, primarily from Demondrille - Young - Cowra with work on the wash a ways first off the mark, with sufficient work to get the remaining line through to Cowra, or perhaps Greenethorpe for Grain traffic.  The Cowra - Blayney section will have a lot more work to be done to it, new bridges as well as decisions as to whether to build a new section to bypass the Carcoar tunnel, owing to the heritage order on it. That would also provide a benefit to take higher traffic loads on the section.

Time will tell.

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  Junction box Chief Commissioner

Location: newy
Did I recently see a pic with Demondrille box gone?
I can't believe the Government let this line go to rot to start with.
  donttellmywife Chief Commissioner

Location: Antofagasta
The draft deed says TfNSW can pay for enhancements if it wants them done.
Whats an enhancement?
If the line has to support passenger trains, then what speed will the passenger trains be required to run at?
If passenger trains are to be run , who will determine the track access charge for them?
MD


Noting that the deed is just a draft - a suggestion for respondents - and they may require changes to it in their responses...

An enhancement is just any work that TfNSW wants done on that part of the network, that the concessionaire hasn't already done. I think this is just to give TfNSW flexibility so that it doesn't find itself in a situation where its political masters want it to do something, but the concessionaire isn't cooperating.

The deed just suggests speeds "applicable" to passenger services. You could probably use the current CRN standards to infer what the speed might be on straight line track. But in the absence of any commitment to run services, this part of the deed would probably have a red line run through it by any respondent.

I think the track would still be subject to the NSW Rail Access Undertaking (i.e. it is open access). If so, access charges would be negotiated between the concessionaire and whoever wants to run a passenger train. The undertaking sets upper and lower limits for access charges. Given there would be additional cost maintaining the line in a condition suitable for passenger trains you would expect that the passenger train mob would have to make it worth while for the concessionaire to do that maintenance.

The thought that comes to me is more along the line of where the primary inland route ends up, meaning the only cross country line that exists now if it ends up being part of that route & traffic forecasts for it become a reality, a 2nd or alternative option is opened with the full line being open.

The aspect of passenger grade, is also a possible part of that scenario, as it provides the option of using it to continue running passenger services, also perhaps freight services at higher speed, during main southern line shutdowns, a bonus if the old Demondrile triangle roads are put back into operation with a Southern line entry point for down services.
a6et


I don't understand your point about the "primary inland route". The proposed alignment for the inland rail line in its current cycle of excitement (if that is what you are referring to) is further west than these lines. The north-south corridor study considered options that could have use the Cowra lines in their "central inland sub-corridor", and the cost and demand results weren't particularly competitive with other options, so I'd be surprised if this option came back to the table.

There are already alternative routes, on lines that are already open and maintained to a reasonably high standard, for main south shutdowns. How practical is it anyway to have flex in timetables and drivers qualified for operation over the Cowra lines for an event that might only happen a couple of days a year or so?
[/quote]
  a6et Minister for Railways



I don't understand your point about the "primary inland route". The proposed alignment for the inland rail line in its current cycle of excitement (if that is what you are referring to) is further west than these lines. The north-south corridor study considered options that could have use the Cowra lines in their "central inland sub-corridor", and the cost and demand results weren't particularly competitive with other options, so I'd be surprised if this option came back to the table.

There are already alternative routes, on lines that are already open and maintained to a reasonably high standard, for main south shutdowns. How practical is it anyway to have flex in timetables and drivers qualified for operation over the Cowra lines for an event that might only happen a couple of days a year or so?
donttellmywife

[/quote]


My point is that the inland route includes part of or all of the Coota-Parkes line then to Dubbo. The primary line at this point is that from Coota - Parkes. The other line that used to form a cross country connection is the one from Junee through to Roto, which is currently abandoned.

If the Coota - Parkes line does end up becoming part of the primary line for the inland route, I would suggest that its use would be prioritised for Interstate traffic. There is also a report that is calling for major grain hubs, that includes Parkes as one, Dubbo as the other & Wagga Wagga the other that is still being worked on, depending on how that one goes would the likelihood be for the inland route to go from Wagga Wagga, complete new track & likely a good option, but at some point would likely link in along the line somewhere.

Yes there is still speculation regarding it & a lot to fall into place, but ATM that line is still indicated as being the primary focus for the line.  If, & this is where there is a lot of speculation is that if there was no real interest or need for another alternative Western line to Southern line connection, why would they include the Cowra - Blayney section in the tender documents?
  donttellmywife Chief Commissioner

Location: Antofagasta
You've still lost me.  

Are you saying the Cowra lines might be used because the inland rail means that there wouldn't be room for other traffic on the sections south of Parkes?  That seems a bit of a stretch to me - I doubt traffic on that inland line would approach its capacity for some decades, plus it would be easy enough to add more capacity without spending huge amounts of money.

If there was a realistic chance that the Cowra lines could end up part of the inland rail route, then I don't think TfNSW wouldn't be putting them out to tender.  Why potentially compromise a bucket of Federal spending on rail infrastructure in your state?  I think the simple reason that they have been put out to tender is because of pressure from the local councils served by the lines.
  MD Chief Commissioner

Location: Canbera
The junction at Blayney is the wrong way for taking any traffic coming from Parkes, and even if there were some
overload between Parkes and Cootamundra, it would be simpler to just send the freight via Lithgow.
The last map I saw of the proposed Inland line doesnt go via Cootamundra anyway, and branches off
the main south near Illabo, and then goes straight to Stockinbingal.

In addition, whats the load limit on the bridge over the lachlan River at Cowra.?
The line was only a class 3 line which means axle loads of 19T or less.
Not many locos around now apart from 48s like this.
  donttellmywife Chief Commissioner

Location: Antofagasta
The junction at Blayney is the wrong way for taking any traffic coming from Parkes, and even if there were some
overload between Parkes and Cootamundra, it would be simpler to just send the freight via Lithgow.
The last map I saw of the proposed Inland line doesnt go via Cootamundra anyway, and branches off
the main south near Illabo, and then goes straight to Stockinbingal.

In addition, whats the load limit on the bridge over the lachlan River at Cowra.?
The line was only a class 3 line which means axle loads of 19T or less.
Not many locos around now apart from 48s like this.
MD

The cadastre indicates that some consideration has been given for the other leg of the triangle to be added at Blayney, though I see there now is siding infrastructure in the road.  But yes... I agree with this and the other points of yours.
  a6et Minister for Railways

You've still lost me.

Are you saying the Cowra lines might be used because the inland rail means that there wouldn't be room for other traffic on the sections south of Parkes? That seems a bit of a stretch to me - I doubt traffic on that inland line would approach its capacity for some decades, plus it would be easy enough to add more capacity without spending huge amounts of money.

If there was a realistic chance that the Cowra lines could end up part of the inland rail route, then I don't think TfNSW wouldn't be putting them out to tender. Why potentially compromise a bucket of Federal spending on rail infrastructure in your state? I think the simple reason that they have been put out to tender is because of pressure from the local councils served by the lines.
donttellmywife

I have never suggested that the line would be part of the inland route, more so a report in one of the earlier discussions & put forward by those promoting the re-opening of the line, it was & is not something I have thought up or the like, read also what I have said regarding the Blayney end of the line, which I would & have suggested be the last section that is opened.

The aspect also comes into play with one of the companies who submitted an expression of interest in the line is a Lithgow based company that has association with one of the rail operators, & was part IIRC of what was revealed there.

MD

Correct that the entry to the line at Blayney faces the wrong way for trains from further west, & yes for the majority the idea to go via Lithgow & Mountains is more logical however, given that in todays systems of run a round the trains is a much simpler process then in the past its not that big a deal really.  Worst part in one respect is that the prospect of a triangle at Blayney is quite hard owing to a factory complex where a triangle would go, or ideally go.

Certainly the line would be needed to be upgraded for the more modern MP, & R/S but the whole part of that would come out in the various submissions.

The bridge at Cowra has had a fair update with concrete piers & steel beams on the outer parts, while retaining the old steel piers & over the river in mid sections, in the end the problem of weight would be determined by that section of the bridge.
  boromisa Junior Train Controller

It is good that they mention passenger services - still some hope LVR may operate out of Cowra again.
  donttellmywife Chief Commissioner

Location: Antofagasta
I think the track would still be subject to the NSW Rail Access Undertaking (i.e. it is open access). If so, access charges would be negotiated between the concessionaire and whoever wants to run a passenger train. The undertaking sets upper and lower limits for access charges. Given there would be additional cost maintaining the line in a condition suitable for passenger trains you would expect that the passenger train mob would have to make it worth while for the concessionaire to do that maintenance.
donttellmywife

A follow-up for MD, as a result of re-reading the documents.

The RFT document very much suggests that the lines would have to be operated under the NSW Rail Access Undertaking (http://www.transport.nsw.gov.au/sites/default/files/b2b/access-info/nsw-rail-access-undertaking.pdf), however it also suggests that the undertaking could be amended if necessary, if the operator intended to conduct a vertically integrated operation (without modification the undertaking would prohibit the access provider from running freight trains).

Further, while the RFT requires respondents to provide a plan that meets TfNSW's requirements, it also suggests that respondents can provide "alternative responses" that may not meet all those requirements.  Given the RFT states "This project is to be wholly funded and financed by any Successful Respondent" about four hundred times, presumably asking for that requirement to be relaxed would not be acceptable, but perhaps other requirements, such as reinstating all the lines, could be.  

But because you still have to submit a main response, and because you can be held to that main response, that means anyone that wants to respond has to provide a timeframe for restoration of all lines and that timeframe has to be specific.  Being specific it means you can't just say "we'll fix the line out to Grenfell/the Cowra bridge/etc when we have got sufficient traffic commitment to make it worthwhile" - you have to give a specific date.  That might be more than the respondents are willing to commit to.

(I now think some of the suggested requirements on the respondents in the draft deed are basically ambit claims from TfNSW - any sane respondent will simply "tell them there dreamin'.")

What's far more interesting... I found a late draft of the memorandum of understanding between the councils and the state that kicked this whole process off.  Surprisingly it wasn't so much "please reopen our rail lines" - instead it mentions things like developing a road access pricing regime, based on some sort of transparent build up of costs, for freight significant council roads.  My jaw hit the floor.  Is this the early steps of local/distance/mass charging for road freight?

With that context, perhaps there is more to the proposed reopening of these lines than wishful thinking.

(If that sort of regime was in place then it also means that the rail line pretty much runs out of excuses for external subsidy - so it is very much make or break time for that line.)
  MD Chief Commissioner

Location: Canbera
I seriously doubt that mass distance charging for trucks will happen anytime soon, because of the implementation costs.
Its easy to measure truck distances, but a hell of a lot harder to measure their mass.
And for mass distance charging , the impost has to be a charge and not a tax which would be the case if the State simply guessed
truck gross mass.
The State would have to build 1000s of weighbridges on every main and secondary road to accomplish this.
Currently, theres only 1 weighbridge on the Hume Highway at Marulan , and none in Vic or SA on any of the major highways.
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia

The State would have to build 1000s of weighbridges on every main and secondary road to accomplish this.
Currently, theres only 1 weighbridge on the Hume Highway at Marulan , and none in Vic or SA on any of the major highways.
MD


There is (or maybe was) a weightbridge near Tallarook.
  Trainplanner Chief Commissioner

Location: Along the Line
QUBE's announcement today of an involvement in major new port development at Port Kembla is potentially good news in revitalizing rail haulage of grain including potential benefit for the Cowra Lines
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
QUBE's announcement today of an involvement in major new port development at Port Kembla is potentially good news in revitalizing rail haulage of grain including potential benefit for the Cowra Lines
Trainplanner


http://www.railpage.com.au/news/s/qube-strikes-50m-joint-venture-deal-with-noble-for-new-grain-depot-at-port-kembla

I believe NSW will definately benefit most from this investment.
  freightgate Minister for Railways

Location: Albury, New South Wales
What is the reasoning behind the investment?

Is there insufficient capacity for grain in NSW?
  donttellmywife Chief Commissioner

Location: Antofagasta
I seriously doubt that mass distance charging for trucks will happen anytime soon, because of the implementation costs.
Its easy to measure truck distances, but a hell of a lot harder to measure their mass.
And for mass distance charging , the impost has to be a charge and not a tax which would be the case if the State simply guessed
truck gross mass.
The State would have to build 1000s of weighbridges on every main and secondary road to accomplish this.
Currently, theres only 1 weighbridge on the Hume Highway at Marulan , and none in Vic or SA on any of the major highways.
MD

Noting that the memorandum merely suggested that things be investigated (which is a very, very, very different from actual implementing anything), I don't think what you are describing is the model that is realistically intended to be implemented, either here or nationally (if that should ever progress).  More practical models use a mass that is "deemed" based on the capability of the vehicle plus trailers.

In this case, it isn't even clear that the regime would apply to state (NSW) controlled roads, let along national highways.  This is more around making sure that freight users are charged prices for using local roads, or local rail, that reflect the underlying cost and making sure that the entity that has to spend the money to provide the road or rail service gets access to the charges paid by users.

Whether you can practically implement location based charging is a bit more contentious for the national truck fleet.  But its probably not such a drama if you are simply talking selected freight using some some local roads across a few shires.  It is pretty obvious what the major sources of freight are, so its pretty easy to monitor.

Has anyone seen the Booz report into these lines?  I only have the title page and a summary of bits of it from another document.  My interest in this doesn't quite extend to pretending I'm part of a consortium thinking about responding to the tender and signing the confidentiality agreement for the data room.
  a6et Minister for Railways

Noting that the memorandum merely suggested that things be investigated (which is a very, very, very different from actual implementing anything), I don't think what you are describing is the model that is realistically intended to be implemented, either here or nationally (if that should ever progress). More practical models use a mass that is "deemed" based on the capability of the vehicle plus trailers.

In this case, it isn't even clear that the regime would apply to state (NSW) controlled roads, let along national highways. This is more around making sure that freight users are charged prices for using local roads, or local rail, that reflect the underlying cost and making sure that the entity that has to spend the money to provide the road or rail service gets access to the charges paid by users.

Whether you can practically implement location based charging is a bit more contentious for the national truck fleet. But its probably not such a drama if you are simply talking selected freight using some some local roads across a few shires. It is pretty obvious what the major sources of freight are, so its pretty easy to monitor.

Has anyone seen the Booz report into these lines? I only have the title page and a summary of bits of it from another document. My interest in this doesn't quite extend to pretending I'm part of a consortium thinking about responding to the tender and signing the confidentiality agreement for the data room.
donttellmywife

I used to have a copy of the Booze Allan report, & it was like so many others that were weighted by the various governments, that basically wanted a report to justify the end of many of the lines & other services in the state, it included aspects of the reclassing or renaming of lines from general branch lines, to low volume grain only lines, which also included at one point them becoming seasonal lines, & suspended on a keep & repair as deemed needed for reinstating services, this was the result after all other traffic was pushed away.

The report also created a huge reaction from all the councils around the state that saw the closure of the branch lines almost en mass. The reason was that it also coincided with the transfer of many main & secondary roads from the NSW Government & old DMR authority for the upgrade & maintenance of the roads & pushed onto local shire & councils to perform the upgrades.

When the councils saw that happen they also saw the rail lines closed, often in sections, eg: Mt Russel - Inverell was first, then Warialda Rail - Mt Russel & progressively to Moree.  All grain that was harvested in the area was sent by road to the silo's & then to Moree sub terminal for rail haulage, a huge extra burden on Councils & rate payers in the upkeep not just of the small local roads servicing farms but also to the silo's then to terminals.

It is therefore possible, this new arrangement or thought is that maybe the councils are looking at getting the harvests back onto rail, especially where adequate storage facilities exist, thus if trucks are used rather than rail, they will likely have to pay more that will assist in road repairs over those roads that are used at the expense of rail.

Back when that report came out, many councils wanted to join forces to keep the lines open rather than have the cost of road maintenance as they considered it would be a cheaper, but it was rejected by the government of the time.
  donttellmywife Chief Commissioner

Location: Antofagasta
I used to have a copy of the Booze Allan report, & it was like so many others that were weighted by the various governments, that basically wanted a report to justify the end of many of the lines & other services in the state, it included aspects of the reclassing or renaming of lines from general branch lines, to low volume grain only lines, which also included at one point them becoming seasonal lines, & suspended on a keep & repair as deemed needed for reinstating services, this was the result after all other traffic was pushed away.
a6et

I'm talking about a different report - Booz&co did a report into the cost/benefit case of the Cowra lines (only), including cost of reinstatement and the future prospects, in 2010/2011 for the Ministerial taskforce looking into these lines.   I only have the summary from the Ministerial taskforce report.

For what its worth, the cost of reinstatement of the line by Booz was estimated to be about $27 million (an earlier report by SAMROM for the councils estimated $10.5 million, which was increased to $14 million after review).  After reinstatement there was then a capital program of $84 million over 20 years (SAMROM initial estimate $31 million, reviewed up to $62 milion).

So the upfront cost estimates of $100 million plus previous in the thread might be a bit on the high side.
  a6et Minister for Railways
  a6et Minister for Railways

I'm talking about a different report - Booz&co did a report into the cost/benefit case of the Cowra lines (only), including cost of reinstatement and the future prospects, in 2010/2011 for the Ministerial taskforce looking into these lines. I only have the summary from the Ministerial taskforce report.

For what its worth, the cost of reinstatement of the line by Booz was estimated to be about $27 million (an earlier report by SAMROM for the councils estimated $10.5 million, which was increased to $14 million after review). After reinstatement there was then a capital program of $84 million over 20 years (SAMROM initial estimate $31 million, reviewed up to $62 milion).

So the upfront cost estimates of $100 million plus previous in the thread might be a bit on the high side.
donttellmywife

Apologies re the report as I was not aware of the specific one done by them on the line.  I was involved in a joint working party on the previous one I mentioned, & when I saw the terms of reference easy to see what the government was after, have things changed much these days?

The associated costs you mention & variations in them are interesting, but in the end the costs will very much depend on what conditions are put to those submitting tenders, such as wanting a higher standard line then was there previously, especially for the Harden - Blayney section, maybe not so much on the Greenthorpe section though, likewise time frames of getting the line back in service.

The aspect at the time of the report, being under the previous government which really had no interest in a re-opening may well have meant a different end result was wanted.  This time with a NSW coalition in power & promises made for the regions, means that they could well have wanted a different outcome, but one that could be used to justify either a reopening or not, thus the tender documents also may be a bit of a double edged sword.
  freightgate Minister for Railways

Location: Albury, New South Wales
Either way this approach to reopening lines by the private sector is a good move and I cannot wait to see the outcome.

If this model does work it then raises lots of possibilities for the reopening if lines the government could not run.

There are various example of these.

Will ARTC bid?

Could this be a viable model for the aw grain lines?
  a6et Minister for Railways

Either way this approach to reopening lines by the private sector is a good move and I cannot wait to see the outcome.

If this model does work it then raises lots of possibilities for the reopening if lines the government could not run.

There are various example of these.

Will ARTC bid?

Could this be a viable model for the aw grain lines?
freightgate

I believe that it can be viable, & here is the point that I have been saying in several areas of this debate, the use of the term Grain Lines. While most of those closed lines are now affectively only grain lines, that was not the case in the past, but getting the old traffic back is very unlikely to happen again, but depends on how far operators are prepared to look outside the current circle I guess.

Realistically, there is traffic prospects other than just grain to the large towns, but even there it becomes hard unless the operator wants that traffic & has locations in the cities or wherever the destinations are for unloading. Likewise the term grain needs to apply not just to wheat as it has happened in the past, with other grains being shafted as well.

Looking across the state, the only other real inland line that could possibly come under a similar consideration would be the Inverel line, but more than likely only as far as Delungra, or Mt Russell at a pinch, owing to that whole line from Moree being in a large grain growing region, & it would certainly offer a relieve to the councils there on road maintenance.

When I read the Land slightly enlarged report about Cube & the new PTK terminal, & them having inland locations in the SW, then that also brings some further development prospects, owing to the other construction that is planned for the PTK site, perhaps cementing Cube a bit more into the NSW rail scene.

All of this is still conjecture & only time will tell whether its a success here & could then be used elsewhere, otherwise it means all will just have to get on to their bikes & cop it.
  boromisa Junior Train Controller

Does anyone find it unusual that LVR Freight did not express interest to operate the line?
  Raichase Captain Rant!

Location: Sydney, NSW
Does anyone find it unusual that LVR Freight did not express interest to operate the line?
boromisa

LVR Freight have not existed for many years. LVRF became Independent Rail, and prior to that any connection with LVR had ceased, as is my understanding of it. Independent Rail has now been absorbed by Qube, and unless Qube had plans for a freight terminal on that line, they would have no vested interest in the line at all.
  boromisa Junior Train Controller

LVR Freight have not existed for many years. LVRF became Independent Rail, and prior to that any connection with LVR had ceased, as is my understanding of it. Independent Rail has now been absorbed by Qube, and unless Qube had plans for a freight terminal on that line, they would have no vested interest in the line at all.
Raichase

I didn't know that. Thank you Smile

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