Stage set for a Chinese inland rail squeeze

 
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Guys this is one of the best articles on the state of Rail in Australia and when you read it you will see what a disgrace transport policy has become in this country.

In the past five months China has shown how it can strangle the giant rail link across the Nullarbor connecting the east coast and WA.

Such a weapon was not on the original agenda of Chinese President Xi Jinping: he planned to attack coal, wine and other agricultural products. But the COVID-19 crisis has shown him how China can open a new front, helped by the strong anti-rail ­forces in Canberra.
The Australian

This I believe to be completely true and if you do take the time @James.au and others ) to review the current subsidies under this shocking federal government when it comes to transport and climate policy you will see just how shocking the situation really is.

No Climate Policy
No Energy Policy
No environmental Policy
No Eco friendly transport Policy

Need I go on?

Stage set for a Chinese inland rail squeeze

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  freightgate Minister for Railways

Location: Albury, New South Wales
@bevans this is a good article which really helps me understand what has been happening. The feds have been trashing rail out of Canberra for years now in favour of trucking companies no doubt due to political donations but also just blind incompetence and corruption. Each year the transport minister favours trucks over rail at every turn.

Now we have the situation here where the federal government is turning ships against rail helping the Chinese again no doh r because of political donations. The federal government is very close to the Chinese.
  james.au Minister for Railways

Location: Sydney, NSW
Who is the author of this article @bevans?

The coastal shipping deregulation was a poor policy choice for sure.  Imagine if they had deregulated domestic air markets in the same way?  Any airline would be allowed to operate domestic flights without any need for Australian crews.  That would go down like a lead balloon...
  bevans Site Admin
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Many comments on the Australian Website with some readers still in denial.

This comment is fascinating and I think highlights the poor management of the network in the north of Queensland

This anti-rail lobby is news to me but not very surprising.

I have just moved to Cairns from NT and live near the start of the Kennedy Highway in Cairns. This is a two lane road (one lane each way up a very windy mountain range) that goes to Mareeba and then on to the Gulf etc.

There is the Kuranda Railway that goes to Mareeba and then used to continue to Atherton until it was ripped up. I am astounded to find that all the landfill destined waste from Cairns travels by semi-trailer up this road.

A perfectly good railway line is bypassed in favour of sending trucks up a potentially dangerous high usage road! I cannot see the logic in this from either a safety or environmental view. Ironically, the landfill is trucked up to Mareeba to protect the Great Barrier Reef from run-off.

The diesel used probably makes this a “two steps forward, two steps backward” situation. My main point is that using existing rail (this line is over 125 years old) must be able to be competitive with road transport, and if not then someone/thing is not trying hard enough, or, the lobby you speak of, Robert, is very successful.
Somebody
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
This comment


Now this folks is an award winning piece of work. Those in the Canberra Bubble seem to be pre-occupied with their shadows, or past shadows.
Somebody

and

China owns our ports, energy providers, politicians (federal, state and local council), universities; so why not our rail network?
Somebody


Which I tend to agree with.
  james.au Minister for Railways

Location: Sydney, NSW
There are a few elements as to the 'anti-rail' mindset in Canberra and this is me having a think, not a totally educated viewpoint.  Im still trying to understand it.

1. Financial - Rail needs subsidy and lots of it.  But so does road so im not totally sold on this
2. Ideological - user pays and all that, except the benefits of rail and the costs of road are not really well understood and people are making decisions about the future of rail without full knowledge.
3. Unions - Rail unions are strong and the Libs who have the power in the Federal sphere want to reduce this
4. Road lobby - this is just so good, and thrashes rail.  Pacific national and FORG have a go but PN is the last company that should be advocating for rail as they want rail their way, which is a way that has little competition so they can keep rail prices high.

Just some ideas.
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
James this comment on how shipping works

Robert, you may be right about China, but you have no idea how shipping works.

Australian coastal shipping has been strangled by high cost militant Australian crews since Adam invented the ark. It was particularly damaging to bulk commodities on the coast. Successive governments of differing colours have either supported the unions, or supported the economy. Australian shipowners looked at the aggravation from the unions, cost & risk and sold almost every Australian flag ship, and rightly so.

Moving containers along the coast was traditionally the province of Australian National Line, but rail was cheaper and more reliable. Container capacity is at a premium at the moment because of the loss of air freight capacity globally due to Covid, which has pushed high value cargo into containers.

Marine fuel has increased by more than USD 200 per metric ton since Covid. It is simply a case of supply and demand.

Container operators for the first time in a very long time are experiencing a global market where capacity is in demand, and freight rates are increasing and so are the shipowners earnings. Container vessels will be deployed on routes where they will achieve the highest return. Mucking about carrying Australian coastal cargo is not the best utilisation of the asset.

Whilst Chinese exporters account for a large proportion of global volumes, it is a stretch to assume that they have to power to instruct shipping companies to punish Australia. Over 20 container lines trade to Australia, some operate fleets in the hundreds of ships capable of carrying upto 16,000 containers.

Market forces are creating a shortage of container capacity globally (not just Australia), when airlines operations start again, capacity will enter the market and take pressure off containers.

Here's an idea; instead of complaining about the Australian coast, palletise cargo and ship it break bulk on general cargo ships, the way cargo was moved before the introduction of containers in the 1960's.
Somebody
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Our containerised exports to China have slowed dramatically. Further, there are 120,000 empty containers sitting in Sydney, with ships not waiting to be loaded the empties because of the demand for shipping capacity.

I think the wait off Los Angeles is currently 60 days to get to berth, so ships are doing everything they can to load cargo, not empties. So it's not a lack of containers in Australia.
Somebody

Container ships are delayed at Los Angeles?
  SinickleBird Assistant Commissioner

Location: Qantas Club at Mudgee International Airport
I’m confused about how the big rail operators have had to (at least semi-permanently) reduce capacity.

Are we talking motive power mothballed (in which case, take the locks out of storage)?
Redeploying trains?
Handing back train paths? (In which case you can get them back)
Laying off train crews?
  james.au Minister for Railways

Location: Sydney, NSW
I think lower investment is probably the answer @snicklebird - in the face of lower forecast volumes the fleet isnt there that might have been with greater.  Hence things like the CLF class locos and SHRCs C501 are being brought back into service for SCT trains.
  RTT_Rules Oliver Bullied, CME

Location: Dubai UAE
There are a few elements as to the 'anti-rail' mindset in Canberra and this is me having a think, not a totally educated viewpoint.  Im still trying to understand it.

1. Financial - Rail needs subsidy and lots of it.  But so does road so im not totally sold on this
2. Ideological - user pays and all that, except the benefits of rail and the costs of road are not really well understood and people are making decisions about the future of rail without full knowledge.
3. Unions - Rail unions are strong and the Libs who have the power in the Federal sphere want to reduce this
4. Road lobby - this is just so good, and thrashes rail.  Pacific national and FORG have a go but PN is the last company that should be advocating for rail as they want rail their way, which is a way that has little competition so they can keep rail prices high.

Just some ideas.
james.au
I think its like this

1. Road is multi user so even and when there is a subsidy the road is still there for you and me to use and considered essential. Rail is dedicated to only a few users and not needed essential, just beneficial.

2. Users pays is the ideal, because this reduces the burden on the taxpayer and releases funds for welfare and other projects. Moral of the story there is more demand for taxpayer revenues than there is revenue.

3. Rail unions and their power are mostly past news these days, maybe not in Vic, but outside. Both sides of govt want reduced union influence, after all which side of politics is accountable for most of Australia's privatisation, hint its not LNP.

4. Road lobby - is the biggest threat to rail as they are not just trucking companies, but also car owner associations etc and includes both big and small.

Much of Australian rail freight is marginal, hence dilution of business across multiple operators can often lead to reduced freight on rail which has happened in a few locations, such as Mt Isa line. Govt owned monopoly's had their problems and by no means advocating a return to the bad old days, but I'm also not convinced the open slather privatisation works either. There is certainly a middle ground somewhere. Tassie seems to have found that for its network, there are some learnings in this but nationally I also don't think its the right outcome nation wide.

We have seen in the past what happens when PN got 100% control of NZ, Tas and Vic, but also noting that PN seems to be doing much better in Qld, however they have been able to pick and choose their battles and the distances on govt owned track seems to work. So I'm inclined to stick with govt owned rails, private above rail and rail access charges are used to leverage a subsidy or not. But if free access to the tracks won't attract traffic, then it probably doesn't deserve to be on rail in the first place.

Not sure giving individual private operators exclusive access to certain sections of the network is ideal either as what do you do when they don't want certain traffic they may actually be viable?

The Eyre Peninsula network is a classic case of getting it wrong by selling the tracks. But for years the private operator had lots of money thrown at them by the govt, probably lost a bit of their own along the way and they operated capital depreciated rolling stock and it still didn't stack up.  How do you save this?
  Big J Deputy Commissioner

Location: In Paradise
Many comments on the Australian Website with some readers still in denial.

This comment is fascinating and I think highlights the poor management of the network in the north of Queensland

This anti-rail lobby is news to me but not very surprising.

I have just moved to Cairns from NT and live near the start of the Kennedy Highway in Cairns. This is a two lane road (one lane each way up a very windy mountain range) that goes to Mareeba and then on to the Gulf etc.

There is the Kuranda Railway that goes to Mareeba and then used to continue to Atherton until it was ripped up. I am astounded to find that all the landfill destined waste from Cairns travels by semi-trailer up this road.

A perfectly good railway line is bypassed in favour of sending trucks up a potentially dangerous high usage road! I cannot see the logic in this from either a safety or environmental view. Ironically, the landfill is trucked up to Mareeba to protect the Great Barrier Reef from run-off.

The diesel used probably makes this a “two steps forward, two steps backward” situation. My main point is that using existing rail (this line is over 125 years old) must be able to be competitive with road transport, and if not then someone/thing is not trying hard enough, or, the lobby you speak of, Robert, is very successful.
bevans
Written by a person that has no idea about waste management.

The material ends up at a place away from the rail line.

Why is there no other freight being hauled by rail up and down the range? It is the same reason. It either requires a multi million dollar rail line to go to the landfill or it becomes containerised for transhipment. The tonnes involved do not warrant the cost of the double handling. It is more cost effective the run the material direct from the plant to the landfill, without the cost of transhipment at both ends.

Remember this has been the motivation to standardise our national rail system to avoid the cost of transhipment.

Rail haulage of waste is successful for larger tonnes. Cairns is circa 90,000 tpa. Sydney where it occurs is around 500,000 tpa from Clyde alone. Economically rail makes sense.

Same idiots that write waste should be rail hauled from Mackay to the huge holes in the Bowen Basin.
1. You need different wagons to haul waste than coal wagons.
2. Good luck finding a path for to the Bowen Basin for a train that isn't coal related, remember 2 decades ago fuel was hauled and are gone.
3. The mines do not want waste.

If that was possible, then we would have seen waste being hauled by rail to Ebenezer, rather than b doubles.

Rail works with BIG tonnes. Not because it feels good.

It rail haulage works for waste in NE USA, UK and Sydney (In fact UK and NE USA use barges too) as the tonnes throughput outweigh the cost of double handling.

This lovely idea is written by a kind person, that has no idea about costs.

In utopia I would like it, but waste is a competitive market, as ratepayers will only tolerate the lowest cost for waste management.
  1771D Junior Train Controller

The Springmount Waste Facility which handles Cairns landfill waste is close to rail and was even closer before certain morons stopped the sugar syrup on rail from Arriga Mill and ripped up the spur line.  The line from Cairns to Arriga was upgraded to 41kg rail to specifically allow the transport of sugar syrup back in the mid to late nineties.  The facility in Portsmith, from which the waste originates, is right next door to Portsmith Rail Yards.

The decision surrounding the use of rail or not should never be made on purely economic grounds. As an example, subsidised rail transport benefited many primary producers through the decades, especially the carrying of fertiliser, until corporate economic rationalism became the trend, as well as blatant corruption involving politicians and the road transport lobby.
As for the trucks that traverse the Kuranda Range road, they are not sealed and constantly spill bin juice and rubbish both onto the roadway and into the environment.  I know, I’ve seen it many time over the years.  Added to this when transporting by road is the obvious damage caused to the roadway,  the extra fuel required, the extra air pollution created, and the fact that these dangerous bloody trucks are flat out staying in their own lane on the tight turns of the range.  Getting stuck behind one will test your patience also.  

If you travel the main roads of Queensland especially, you will see they are mostly in a shocking condition, purely due to the overzealous use of heavy transport, made possible, and indeed encouraged by politicians and bureaucrats beholden to ideological economic theories and downright blatant corruption.

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