What if there was more support for rail in SA?

 
  Pressman Spirit of the Vine

Location: Wherever the Tin Chook or Qantas takes me

I'm frankly surprised that the Balco service is still running. I guess the lack of road train access to Bowmans is probably it's saving grace. As for most other areas, B-doubles and Road Trains are just too competitive for rail to have a chance. So the real answer is, why use a train, when it is cheaper, and easier to run it on a truck the whole way. Plus there are also loads that simply can't be moved by rail. Pre-cast concrete panels are a prime example, followed by oversize loads that would foul the loading gauge.
Alco_Haulic
The advantage Balco has is that there is no double handling of containers. The rail siding is alongside the plant that fills the containers,  the train then delivers them to the wharf. So with no road component at either end, there is no double handling.

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  K-Class Chief Train Controller

Location: Melbourne
I'm frankly surprised that the Balco service is still running. I guess the lack of road train access to Bowmans is probably it's saving grace.
Alco_Haulic
The reason the Balco works is the fact that it produces at least 60 to 90 TEU of containers 5 days a week that are filled on site and are all headed to the port for export.

If the containers were being filled at a number of sites around the region and then being trucked to the Bowmans terminal for a train ride to Adelaide and then truck to its end use it would not be viable but the fact that it is a trainload of single source loading and single destination makes it work. This is the type of loading modern trains do best.

Matt
  steam4ian Chief Commissioner

Matt & Tony.

You have hit the nail firmly on the head.
  1. Rail to site.
  2. Rail to destination,
  3. No double handling,
  4. Regular loading, not seasonal.

The factors mean viability, take away any one of them and rail struggles.

Rail still works in the USA, even the short lines, because these four factors exist.

If we want (and don't we?) rail to succeed in SA we need not advocacy of rail but industry and commerce which integrates with rail. To be honest, in SA we need industry and commerce, perhaps we start there.

Ian
  nscaler69 Deputy Commissioner

Location: There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots.
Not to mention it was a Social business decision BALCO choose to use rail over truck even thou from memory trucking was cheaper and quicker.
  Pressman Spirit of the Vine

Location: Wherever the Tin Chook or Qantas takes me
Not to mention it was a Social business decision BALCO choose to use rail over truck even thou from memory trucking was cheaper and quicker.
nscaler69
Likewise the decision to build their plant at Bowmans (adjacent to the DIRN) rather than closer to their employee base of Balaklava.

The company does use a lot of trucks to transport the main product from the Farm Gate to the Plant where it is processed (and compressed) and packed into containers for export

For those who don't know BALCO is the shortened name of the Balaklava Company
  Alco_Haulic Chief Commissioner

Location: Eating out...
OK, I didn't know that the plant was rail side. Makes sense on why it's used. Trucking would undoubtedly be cheaper, so I applaud the company on having a social stance.
  David Peters Dr Beeching

Location: "With Hey Boy".
There is not much left in SA industry wise that can use rail though most have shut down or gone oversea's. So who is going to rail something these days. SA's population is concentrated more or less around Adelaide and the suburbs and most industry is as well bar a few exceptions! So what is the railway going to transport that is not seasonal, there is nothing really which is why a lot of the rail in SA lies dormant now and there is more to come in the future as well. Only a small minority of companies these days use rail for transport as they always look at the cheapest method to transport something and in SA road transport is the quickest and cheapest transport around the place.

New faster roads are being opened on almost a daily thing but rail has not really seen any expansion here since the standard gauge got to Adelaide years ago, the only real actual extension of late was to Seaford on the suburban network.

SA had too many lines to close together to start with and most when first built were only built to get votes etc. Some lines went to no where actually and have never really ever turned what could be called a profit they were just a drain on the public purse for their entire existence! So really heavy use of rail again in SA for industrial purposes is really just a dream now!

Look at all the places in the past that used to have rail access and use it , GMH, Mitsubishi, Pt Stanvac oil refinery, Penrice Soda and a lot from Port Adelaide but they are all gone or going now. Even the ex BHP at Whyalla is just a shadow of it's former self! With all that gone there is simply nothing left really and what is left can best be done by road!
  steam4ian Chief Commissioner

David.

I think your last point is somewhat negated by BALCO.

Ian
  Pressman Spirit of the Vine

Location: Wherever the Tin Chook or Qantas takes me
OK, I didn't know that the plant was rail side. Makes sense on why it's used. Trucking would undoubtedly be cheaper, so I applaud the company on having a social stance.
Alco_Haulic
The "social stance" of the company even extends to posting links on their website to the SA and WA regulations for road transport of Hay Bales for the truckies that deliver to the processing plants! (Yes they also have a plant in WA)
  don_dunstan Minister for Railways

Location: Adelaide proud
Is there any possibility that the Bowman Intermodal concept could be carried over to other regional parts of SA - like Loxton? Or is the track in too-poor a condition to consider that.

I notice on the G&W website that they pride themselves as spur-line and short-haul experts in the United States, making money out of lines that other operators have tried and failed at.
  David Peters Dr Beeching

Location: "With Hey Boy".
David.

I think your last point is somewhat negated by BALCO.

Ian
steam4ian
Road is a lot quicker to deliver stuff that is time dependant these days as trucks can detour etc on another road if one is blocked or closed, rail has not got this option. Also rail needs trucks both ends in most cases to deliver or pick up whatever and a lot would just opt for the truck the whole way as there is less chance of breakage etc as containers are swapped from one to the other mode of transport. Accidents do happen in container depot's!

Most would look at the sheer cost and on this alone trucks win out though door to door with no added cost's in most cases. This is one thing rail does not do at all that is deliver to ones business premise's in a lot of cases, so you have the added cost of a truck from the terminal to your door! In South Australia most population is concentrated in the Southern section of the state and really on a large scale it is only a small area.

Rail is good for longer distance freight haulage like across Australia or across one or more states but trucks are a much more easily used transport within states. Also rail these days does not have places everywhere like in the past where freight could be delivered and placed on a train. These days it is all about bulk movement of anything really!
  Pressman Spirit of the Vine

Location: Wherever the Tin Chook or Qantas takes me
Road is a lot quicker to deliver stuff that is time dependant these days as trucks can detour etc on another road if one is blocked or closed, rail has not got this option. Also rail needs trucks both ends in most cases to deliver or pick up whatever and a lot would just opt for the truck the whole way as there is less chance of breakage etc as containers are swapped from one to the other mode of transport. Accidents do happen in container depot's!

Most would look at the sheer cost and on this alone trucks win out though door to door with no added cost's in most cases. This is one thing rail does not do at all that is deliver to ones business premise's in a lot of cases, so you have the added cost of a truck from the terminal to your door! In South Australia most population is concentrated in the Southern section of the state and really on a large scale it is only a small area.

Rail is good for longer distance freight haulage like across Australia or across one or more states but trucks are a much more easily used transport within states. Also rail these days does not have places everywhere like in the past where freight could be delivered and placed on a train. These days it is all about bulk movement of anything really!
David Peters
David, you seem to have missed Ian's point ....... Balco IS the exception to your scenario, They are making it work on Rail!

As the quote in my signature says
"Would those who say it can't be done, please stand aside and stop hindering those who are doing it"
  Trainplanner Chief Commissioner

Location: Along the Line
I certainly agree that there are a lot of challenges to reinvigorating greater use of rail freight in South Australia and other similar regional lines in just about most stes but there is no doubt decisions taken in the past regarding the rationalization of some lines in South Australia and very poor and indeed lack of a rail freight strategy and policy at Government level are significant contributors as to why the situation exists in South Australia in particular.

Transport policy and strategy is a key player as evidenced by the very significant turnround in both New Zealand and Tasmania where there has been investment in rehabilitating the network but also schemes that facilitate freight on rail.   Not all Railpagers would be aware that the UK at one stage lost huge volumes of freight to rail until Government Policy changed and a Rail Freight Facilitation Scheme was established, which has also been adopted in NZ and to an extent Tasmania.

In the UK it is often the client in partnership with a rail operator that puts forward schemes for grants to reconnect private sidings to industry or establish intermodal terminals like Ettamogah, Dooen (near horsham) (and announnounced yesterday Wodonga) that are either for single clients  or multi users.

These faciltation schemes help to address the issue that rail has of competing for point to point because the scheme eliminates some of those barriers.   Similarly the provision of subsidy on container haulage such as in Victoria is another mechanism to promote mode shift to rail, but in the first instance you still need volume and consolidation to make rail viable.

Nonetheless I am surprised that opportunities for some traffic into/ or out of areas like Broken Hill and Pt Augusta for "domestic" traffic using capacity on existing trains is not forthcoming and the loss of the Mt Gambier Line given the scale of development that will be ongoing in the triangle are not seen as opportunities for rail.
  steam4ian Chief Commissioner

Trainplanner

My previous and present posts were not intended to be pessimistic rather to be pragmatic.

I forgot to mention my favourite example which is SCT who have made rail a part of their "Logistic Solutions" and can provide an effective door to door service which becomes effective where warehousing is involved and time is less critical.

Regarding the UK it is heartening to hear of a freight revival because when I was in the UK in 2000, and even in 2012, I saw plenty of passenger trains but few freight trains of the type seen in the USA/Canada and we are used to here. The USA, supposedly the most auto centric society on the planet, still has an extensive and efficient rail system and it ALL private enterprise (apart from Amtrak and some regional services).

Unfortunately much of the former rail infrastructure is too far gone to simply start running trains back over it should some industry establish itself conveniently beside the right of way. In spite of our agreement about the potential traffic for rail from the green triangle the cost of standardising and restoring what was formerly heavy duty rail line would never be repaid. Unfortunately the fact that the Darwin line got into financial difficulties is a demonstration of the problems facing such an endeavour.

WE cannot get away from the fact that there is little industry in SA now which will generate traffic to justify rail. I have written before about the comparison between SA country centres and their counterparts in the eastern states. In an SA country town their will be ruins of a flour mill; in Victoria a factory processing grains into breakfast cereals for national distribution with employment for hundreds. Such produce can be loaded onto rail at interchange centres like Dooen.

More rail advocacy would help but it is by no means the whole solution to getting more traffic on rail. Advocacy actually needs to generate the traffic.

Ian
  SAR523 Assistant Commissioner

Location: Chicago, IL
Transport policy and strategy is a key player as evidenced by the very significant turnround in both New Zealand and Tasmania where there has been investment in rehabilitating the network but also schemes that facilitate freight on rail.   Not all Railpagers would be aware that the UK at one stage lost huge volumes of freight to rail until Government Policy changed and a Rail Freight Facilitation Scheme was established, which has also been adopted in NZ and to an extent Tasmania.

In the UK it is often the client in partnership with a rail operator that puts forward schemes for grants to reconnect private sidings to industry or establish intermodal terminals like Ettamogah, Dooen (near horsham) (and announnounced yesterday Wodonga) that are either for single clients  or multi users.
Trainplanner

Trainplanner - it is always good to hear rail success stories from around the world, but can you elaborate on what you see as being the pertinent similarities to South Australia and these examples?

For the United Kingdom, the increase in share of total freight for rail of about 4% over the last two decades (from around 7 to 11% IRRC) is seen as a great success from a European perspective, but has followed liberalization of the network that looks very similar to that which Australia undertook at around the same time.  And if we can agree that comparing SA and Victoria is somewhat an Apples and Oranges comparison, then the UK is more analogous to a vegetable than a fruit.  The UK still has a large extant rail network (albeit with a somewhat constrained loading gauge), has a population of close to 40x that of SA in about a quarter of the space, has a highway capacity problem and is linked by rail (and is part of) the largest economic block in the world.

What is the loading you see originating at Pt Augusta, Broken Hill or Mt Gambier that would warrant rail?  Again, new railways are been built in Australia where warranted by demand, so it doesn't appear that an existing track (while it would be helpful) is required.


My very peripheral read of the NZ case is that the North Island is quite analogous to NSW & Victoria, and the south Island is more analogous to SA.  Dropping to quite unreliable person experience, in my every-couple-of-years visits to the South Island, I am struck by the lack of traffic on the Main South line.  What trains you do see appear to be bulk moves between major terminals, which is pretty much what you see in South Australia today.


I'd be quite interested to understand what's happened in Tasmania.


Like both Ian and Aaron have said, what's missing in SA is intended loadings or passengers.  If you build a very expensive railroad, there's absolutely no guarantee that 'they' will come and use it.  And it's not like the Australian Federal and State governments are too flush with cash these days to take such a gamble.
  Sulla1 Chief Commissioner

Ultimately regional South Australia suffers from a small population, a small economy and relatively short and road friendly distances to Adelaide. If you want to know why South Australia has virtually no regional freight or passenger services these days, here's the statistics showing the primary reasons.

Largest regional cities/towns in South Australia (2014 ABS figures)

1. Mt Gambier; 28,649
Road distance to Adelaide - 434km

2. Whyalla; 22,464
Road distance to Adelaide - 381km

3. Murray Bridge; 17,582
Road distance to Adelaide - 76km

4. Port Lincoln; 15,879
Road distance to Adelaide - 647km

5. Port Pirie; 14,319
Road distance to Adelaide - 223km

6. Port Augusta; 14,288
Road distance to Adelaide - 305km

7. Victor Harbour; 14,218
Road distance to Adelaide - 83km

Gross Domestic Product for Regional South Australia in 2013 was $24.7-billion


Now compare this to regional Queensland where the largest remaining concentration of regional rail freight in Australia is to be found...but notice how despite their size, the cities closest to Brisbane produce no rail freight.

Largest regional cities in Queensland (2014 ABS figures)

1. Gold Coast; 551,705
Road distance to Brisbane - 77km (produces no rail freight)

2. Sunshine Coast; 330,498
Road distance to Brisbane - 118km (produces no rail freight)

3. Townsville; 189,287
Road distance to Brisbane - 1354km

4. Cairns; 153,566
Road distance to Brisbane - 1701km

5. Toowoomba; 149,102
Road distance to Brisbane - 125km (produces no rail freight)

6. Mackay; 121,909
Road distance to Brisbane - 967km

7. Rockhampton; 118,043
Road distance to Brisbane - 633km

Gross Domestic Product for Regional Queensland in 2013 was $158.3-billion
  don_dunstan Minister for Railways

Location: Adelaide proud
In spite of our agreement about the potential traffic for rail from the green triangle the cost of standardising and restoring what was formerly heavy duty rail line would never be repaid.
steam4ian
It was a really unfortunate by-product of Keating's One Nation; but if you were looking for potential targets that fit the description of what works (big bulk loadings; terminal to port) then the South-East does tick all the boxes with two or three possible customers. The problem now is that it's been twenty years since the closure and what might have been a simple operation in the immediate time after the closure would now be pretty much a complete rebuilding over existing right of way; it's likely to be deemed uneconomical because of that.

Who knows, we could have another big splash of Johnny Howard Federation Fund or Kevin Rudd GFC-beating money come our way in the future and as someone else pointed out, there are good social arguments for putting bulk haulage back onto the rail system where possible.
  Trainplanner Chief Commissioner

Location: Along the Line
The most recent threads sum up the other issues affecting rail freight development in South Australia.   Population centres are small and distances in the more developed area of the state are low.   The decision to not gauge convert the Mt Gambier Line at a time when the railway was still in reasonable condition is probably the greatest lost opportunity.   My comments about possible domestic freight traffic using existing freight services to the likes of Broken Hill was more general but it does have industry activity and is a reasonable distance but as we know elsewhere PN and Aurizon don't have a track record in picking up or setting small volumes of 2 or 3 container flats.

It took a huge effort from Colin Rees at Ettamogah (Albury) to get the 2 big players to negotiate arrangements for servicing his depot.
  Donald Chief Commissioner

Location: Donald. Duck country.
The most recent threads sum up the other issues affecting rail freight development in South Australia.   Population centres are small and distances in the more developed area of the state are low.   The decision to not gauge convert the Mt Gambier Line at a time when the railway was still in reasonable condition is probably the greatest lost opportunity.   My comments about possible domestic freight traffic using existing freight services to the likes of Broken Hill was more general but it does have industry activity and is a reasonable distance but as we know elsewhere PN and Aurizon don't have a track record in picking up or setting small volumes of 2 or 3 container flats.

It took a huge effort from Colin Rees at Ettamogah (Albury) to get the 2 big players to negotiate arrangements for servicing his depot.
Trainplanner
PN operate the Mildura (Merbein) Fruity.   They stop at Donald (PeaCo) and drop off and collect b/w 2 and 8 flats twice a week.   Obviously if a company is keen to work with rail, it can be done.
  David Peters Dr Beeching

Location: "With Hey Boy".
David, you seem to have missed Ian's point ....... Balco IS the exception to your scenario, They are making it work on Rail!

As the quote in my signature says
"Would those who say it can't be done, please stand aside and stop hindering those who are doing it"
Pressman
Yes one company but that is as someone said previously is from the plant to the wharf so in that case it would probably be economic, however other things cannot be done this way though as most business some large and small no longer have private sidings anymore and want things there yesterday which rail cannot provide for them so they ship it by road. Also as someone said the road distances to most places in South Australia are reasonably short in the larger picture, 400 odd Kilometres is not really that far when you consider it compared to 4100 Kilometres across Australia!

Most of South Australia bar the outback really is in most cases these days a days drive somewhere. Some are down to mere hours or even less, like Murray Bridge and other closer towns. Also as someone pointed out nearly every country town is a like a ghost of itself these days! Most towns only exist to be a central location to an area with just farming in that area and nothing more really. This is only seasonal traffic though and there are no big companies setting up industries in country towns in this state, Balco again being the exception to the rule!

A  lot of former towns that were left have virtually downsized dramatically now look at Peterborough as a classic example it used to be a big vibrant town, but when the railways left it virtually became a ghost town overnight! Now it is just another spot on a map not much more!
  Alco_Haulic Chief Commissioner

Location: Eating out...
Remember that the Mt Gambier line may have suffered because of a funding arrangement used to convert the lines to BG in the first place. The federal government provided the funding for that conversion, on the condition that the state paid for the eventual SG conversion. I don't know  how things went when the SA government turned the railways over to the federal government.

The south east is the only area of SA where rail has a decent length to try and compete on. However, it would take a lot of funding to try and rebuild the line to anything nearly useful. Port Lincoln has enough distance, but no direct rail connection. Sad reality is road movement of freight is just more economical and effective for SA.

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