What if there was more support for rail in SA?

 
  ARG706 Chief Commissioner

Location: SA
I thought I'd post this to ask (hypothetically) what the situation would be today if the government didn't close most secondary railway lines in SA and kept them going through ongoing funding, and maybe without privatisation.

The first thought that comes to my mind is the Northfield branch. There are a lot of industries along this line in the Pooraka district, and if the government encouraged rail transport more, does one think that this would be a heavily used line?

Northfield itself would probably still have closed unless it was retained for commuters from the Ingle Farm/Northfield area. By the 1990s, maybe electrification and possibly standardisation would have taken place.

Also, what traffic would there be on the mid north lines today? Given the lack of major industries, the service would have to be more like a typical goods train with some passenger services thrown in using modern rollingstock such as the Vline Vlocity units or something. Also the occasional grain train would operate. It would be cheaper going by train than driving to Adelaide and back.

Anyhow, just my opinion.

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  mclaren2007 Assistant Commissioner

Location: recharging my myki
One new piece of railway in 35 years. Rail is high priority right now.

Maybe they could fix the line north of Gawler and run a regional service to Freeling/Kapunda. Wishful thinking though.

Also the lack of grade separations is gonna be a real issue in a few years. Seriously, who's idea was it to build that station at Oaklands and not grade separate?
  Smacks Station Master

Also the lack of grade separations is gonna be a real issue in a few years. Seriously, who's idea was it to build that station at Oaklands and not grade separate?
mclaren2007
I heard that the Oaklands station is supposed to be a temporary station; But it doesn't look very temporary to me. Also, why was it only built to accommodate 5 car trains?
  SA_trains Deputy Commissioner

Location: ACT
The state of rail in SA is really a by-product of many poor decisions made over many years, nay decades!

Gauge conversion was suggested as far back as the 1930's

There is evidence that Webb had considered electrification of the Main South.

In more recent times, linking Peterborough-Adelaide-Crystal Brook when Gauge converted, would have opened up more efficient route, plus an alternate route in case of accident as well as assuring grain remained on rail....

Similar arguments for keeping the South East lines open and for gauge converting them as well.

BUT all these things are really hypothesis...

Sadly though, no amount of rail advocacy would restore regional passenger rail. Just simply insufficient population density in SA regional centres. That said, there are probably opportunities for improved rail links to population centres on the northern fringes. Perhaps time will tell...
  hosk1956 Deputy Commissioner

Location: no where near gunzels

The first thought that comes to my mind is the Northfield branch. There are a lot of industries along this line in the Pooraka district, and if the government encouraged rail transport more, does one think that this would be a heavily used line?

Northfield itself would probably still have closed unless it was retained for commuters from the Ingle Farm/Northfield area.

ARG706
A lot of industries?  Sorry, but I can't see them, the only industry that kept that line alive was the abattoirs and meat markets, there are none there now that would even remotely want to use rail.
I do agree about passenger branch though, I always believed that it should have been retained with a massive bus interchange to funnel all the growing area population into the city and take the congestion we now have off of Main North Rd, Hampstead Rd and Main North East Rd to a certain extent.
Fly overs at Pt Wakefield and Main North Roads could have been built and virtually all services to the city being express. I'll go back on my own words here and say my suggested flyovers need not have been built, to be sitting at a level crossing watching a train go past that has a big sign on the side that says "I'll be in the city in 10 minutes, will you?" could be a good incentive for people to get out of the cars, yeah, I know not all commuters go into the city, an effing lot do, if they were all on a train it would make the suburbs commuter run easier.
And I wouldn't have rushed into to standardisation, has it done us any good?? It has only provided a convenient excuse to close down country lines.

Wayne
  Pressman Spirit of the Vine

Location: Wherever the Tin Chook or Qantas takes me
A lot of industries?  Sorry, but I can't see them, the only industry that kept that line alive was the abattoirs and meat markets, there are none there now that would even remotely want to use rail.
I do agree about passenger branch though, I always believed that it should have been retained with a massive bus interchange to funnel all the growing area population into the city and take the congestion we now have off of Main North Rd, Hampstead Rd and Main North East Rd to a certain extent.
Fly overs at Pt Wakefield and Main North Roads could have been built and virtually all services to the city being express. I'll go back on my own words here and say my suggested flyovers need not have been built, to be sitting at a level crossing watching a train go past that has a big sign on the side that says "I'll be in the city in 10 minutes, will you?" could be a good incentive for people to get out of the cars, yeah, I know not all commuters go into the city, an effing lot do, if they were all on a train it would make the suburbs commuter run easier.
And I wouldn't have rushed into to standardisation, has it done us any good?? It has only provided a convenient excuse to close down country lines.

Wayne
hosk1956
Exactly right on the only industry on the Northfield branch there Wayne.
As to passenger traffic, things would have turned out very different if the Heavy rail option for the North East Corridor had been taken up in lieu of the O-Bahn.
The heavy rail option was an extension of the Northfield branch to Modbury via the gully to the north of Yatala prison
  steam4ian Chief Commissioner

Guys

Do the sums.

An O-Bahn or LVR from TTP to the CBD vs heavy rail from TTP via Northfield, Dry Creek thence to CBD.

I know what I would put my money on.

Northfield's death knell sounded when the quarry behind Yatala Prison closed and fate was sealed when the meat works closed and ANR decided they didn't want to move anything already on legs.

That said, it is a pity that neither of Woolworths warehouses, one near Pooraka the other Monarto South, are connected to the rail network.

Ian
  PaulSurguy Station Master

Hi Guys the Northfield branch had shunting at SAMCOR livestock,some wagon storage ,you had Adelaide Cold Stores on that branch with its own siding ,also ARC Meshweld  plus the COMGEN factory behind ARC Meshweld some of the tracks still cross Churchill Rd Nth at Dry Creek protected by a signal that has not been used for god knows how long The signal is still there, On the western side of Churchill Rd Nth you had the triangle that SA Cold Stores used ,at one stage they were going to join there siding to the triangle they had a container gantry crane out the back and had a couple of shunts a day when need container flats were parked on the triangle Paul
  K-Class Chief Train Controller

Location: Melbourne
I believe that if every line built in SA was still available for use and all lines were SG the only additional traffic on rails compared to today would be additional grain from the mid north and upper south east and a small possibility of a general freight to Mt Gambier.

I dont have much hope for Mt Gambier freight as we currently dont even have a containerised freight to Whyalla and that is a similar distance and population as Mt Gambier.

Overall more advocacy for rail might get one or two more interstate train to the east and west coasts per week as an absolute best case. For any more growth than that would require a completely new thinking and approach to logistics from a national level.

Matt
  steam4ian Chief Commissioner

Matt,

Well said, Some lines were converted to SG but one has closed and the remaining two will only last another season. They will go the way of Roberts Town, Burra, Blyth/Gulnare and Wallaroo.

A few 10,000s of tonnes of seasonal grain just does pay the rent.

SA has none of the centres which justify on going and even upgraded rail services such a those in the eastern states.

Ian
  don_dunstan Minister for Railways

Location: Adelaide proud
I dont have much hope for Mt Gambier freight as we currently dont even have a containerised freight to Whyalla and that is a similar distance and population as Mt Gambier.
K-Class
It does work in places like Warrnambool, Mildura, Deniliquin and Horsham; I'm not sure why it has never taken off at all in SA. The Mount Gambier line sitting there idle is a terrible waste - it could have bought much cheaper bulk haulage to the South East and connected it to the rest of the country via the standard gauge network.

SA has none of the centres which justify on going and even upgraded rail services such a those in the eastern states.
Steam4Ian
It requires the vision to make these things work and actually take on the road industry in areas where heavy haulage can be successfully moved off the roads. Sadly that vision is lacking - not just in SA but all over this country. The exception has been the aforementioned successful regional container services here in Victoria - it's a shame that this success apparently can't be applied to other bulk commodities.
  steam4ian Chief Commissioner

Don

The "towns" you mention underline my point. Horsham population variously reported as 14000 to 15500, I suppose that depends on which way the wind blows. Mildura 50-60 thousand compared with 30-40 thousand for the whole of SA's Riverland district.

I note that Horsham doesn't have a proper rail service only a coordinated bus.

As for the rest of SA the Iron Triangle (blame your namesake for that dreadful epithet) about 50,000 and the Green Triangle about 40,000.

So in SA we start with regional areas with populations of only 40-50 thousand we then add to the mix indirect rail routes compared with road or air routes or just plain substandard track and passenger rail travel is not really viable.

Other freights, except for Whyalla's steel, are sporadic and seasonal so by the time it is loaded on a road vehicle to get to the rail terminal it might as well go the whole journey.

Sorry to be so pessimistic. Had the rail administrations been more aggressive and had more money to put into updating freight handling the story might have been better. Then I even question that. In WA the standard gauge link coincided with a major freight handling upgrade. An impressive system of freight transfer and management was built at Kewdale, it was widely reported and lavishly praised. In the late 90s I was at Kewdale designing the NRC loco servicing facility being built on the site of what had been the Kewdale freight complex.

Progress?

Ian
  railblogger Chief Commissioner

Location: At the back of the train, quitely doing exactly what you'd expect.
If there was more advocacy for rail in SA then you'd probably have a much better service than you do now, including a country service similar to V/Line here in Victoria, because there may very well have enough pressure on the government that it would be running scared and as such throwing everything at the system.
  steam4ian Chief Commissioner

Railblogger.

That assumes that the public in the areas are interested AND the local politician sees that as an issue, he/she has plenty of other things to bat for.
If the great unwashed have to chose between better roads or a once a day rail service I know what I would be placing my money on.

It also needs to be remembered that farmers supplement their income after harvest by carting grain; they own rigs.

Ian
  don_dunstan Minister for Railways

Location: Adelaide proud
Ian - leaving the passenger rail part aside (because that's got more to do with politics rather than practicality in my opinion) there is probably scope for some regular container services around a few of the larger regional centres. As discussed earlier it's a terrible shame the 'Green triangle' was allowed to fall into seemingly terminal disrepair after not being standardised - it was going to be a minimal investment for what would have been a really great return on those bulk products that come out of the SE of SA.

It also didn't help in SA that my avatar gave SAR away to the Feds who subsequently ran it into the ground. In Victoria and Tasmania the state eventually stepped in to save what was left of the intrastate network but for some reason in SA the political will has never been there.
  SAR523 Assistant Commissioner

Location: Chicago, IL
Guys - I hate to rain on anyone's parade (I like trains as much as the next person) but rail is extremely capital intensive (read: costs a lot more) when compared to other realistic alternatives.

The population of South Australia, outside of Adelaide, is less than half a million people.  Comparisons with Victoria make no sense as the population of Victoria, excluding Melbourne, is greater than all of South Australia.  And while noting that Victoria is less than a quarter the size of SA isn't very useful (since most of SA is empty), the density is still completely different.  These are apples and oranges comparisons.  And don't even get me started on comparisons to highly industrialized and comparatively densely populated parts of the US.  

Back in the day when there was country rail service, people voted with their feet to use other forms of transport, that are essentially more convenient for them, once they became available.

This is not to say that rail has no use or future, but right now there isn't a lot of unmet demand, otherwise you'd expect to see some proposals or actual construction.  There are railways been built where they make economic sense (normally mining, but also the Darwin-Adelaide link comes to mind).

So in short, greater advocacy for rail wouldn't change anything unless those advocates were also willing to fund it.  If you can show that it is cheaper than the alternatives, go right ahead.  But with numbers please.
  steam4ian Chief Commissioner

SAR523.

Good points. I like your reference to country Victoria population being greater than the whole of SA with much shorter distances and Melbourne having a much better transport system in and around the CBD.

We need to remember that commercially the Adelaide Darwin rail just about fell on its back side even after all the hype.

We must also remember that the Seaford rail extension was only justified on soft grounds like environment and social matters. I am not saying these things are unimportant just that the hard facts of use and usefulness don't necessarily provide a basis for a project. Even now the users of the new Seaford extension are complaining about the trip duration and want to disadvantage other and longer term users with their express services.

Ian
  Aaron Minister for Railways

Location: University of Adelaide SA
It's very simple, South Australia does need more rail advocacy, it needs more intending pax and more intending goods. Without those the two expensive ribbons of steel to nowhere for nobody or any thing are useless.
  pafcmachine Junior Train Controller

Location: Adelaide SA
Interesting discussion.

From a Metro Point of view the track is the wrong gauge for a start.

Its always interested me as to why the Govt wouldn't go all out to gauge convert all operational lines in the short term and offer up dormant lines for conversion (with support) and subsequent connection to the national network.

There's obvious maintenance advantages but also operational ones too (duplicating pathing opportunities etc consolidation of train control systems adopting ARTC standards)

Even though the recent metro upgrade allows for gauge convertible (Broad/STD) rail weight convertible (50kg/60kg),  25t axle load at 80km/h. The operating regime (reality) is totally different and in reality getting less onerous GTK wise (Whats a 2000 class 21t axle load ? 3000 19t , 4000 14t??)

A lot of money is invested in the "opportunity" to convert or run freight but never to bite the bullet and just do it!
  steam4ian Chief Commissioner

The old BG/SG Boggy again.

SG gets a lot of hype but there is no magic in the distance the rails are apart. BG lines in SA and Victoria were built historically to varying standards for varying axle loads; some had 107lb/yd rail and a few 35 lb/yd rails. Worldwide some 3'6" (or metric equivalent) gauge lines carry traffic equivalent to most good SG and BG lines.

Consider the cost of converting the Metro system to SG and offset this against a few advantages.
Advantages limited to
  • Directional running to Belair; does either operator want to be delayed by the other, I doubt it.
  • Access to Mt Barker; consider the journey time, it is not viable compared with alternatives.
  • SG freight could be wheeled around Adelaide; by whom and for whom, rail does not transport good like that anymore
  • Northern country lines could access OH grain facilities; that can be done more cheaply with a few km of third rail to Pelican point. Regarding BG access the grain transporters already voted before Pelican point was built.

The disadvantages are another major system shut down with more passengers lost. Noarlunga line pax numbers are yet to return to the pre shutdown levels even with the swishy electric trains.

The scarce resources of SA would be better spent elsewhere.

Ian
  pafcmachine Junior Train Controller

Location: Adelaide SA
Hi

Firstly I'm not suggesting there is any "magic" to std gauge at all. Certainly there is no real engineering benefit and from a purely engineering perspective broad gauge is obviously superior, but with a greater burden.

I agree that there is plenty of heavy haul narrow gauge.

What I am talking about is a broader view of  the transport task in SA and what part rail should play.

I'm also talking about interoperability, optimising operating costs, and a broader standardisation package.

At the end of the day the railway is merely a transport corridor - like a road.

At the moment, that metro "road" cannot be used by anyone other than a small proportion of rollingstock that has been built specifically for this network and only the carriage of passengers (who, by the way, pay very little of the cost of the provision of this service).

That same "road" has, what, one big "bus" over it once every 15 minutes? These "buses" are heavily loaded in peak hour but outside of that are relatively poorly patronised. ARTC on a good day have about 24 trains (on average one per hour).

DPTI also need own and maintain a bespoke fleet of maintenance equipment. They cant just roll in the AK cars off the interstate network for track geometry, they cant just ring ARTC, Transfields or Hollands to hire a Tamper, or Regulator, they have to keep their own capability.

Every time an ultrasonics run, grinding or other program needs to be run the equipment needs to be gauge converted and re certified. This comes at a cost both in time and money.

Every time they procure something it has to be "special". Special rollingstock, Special Sleepers, Special track gear, . This all costs the state a fortune.

Whilst the pure economics may not stack up in the immediate short term, my view is that conversion to std gauge would provide broader benefits and efficiencies to the state.

On the Seaford Line comments - it doesn't help when the same govt that invests mega dollars in track upgrade, electrification and new rollingstock, then goes and build a 1/2 billion dollar freeway alongside it. What did they think was going to happen?
  David Peters Dr Beeching

Location: "With Hey Boy".
The Metro system was removed from the freight trains for a reason that was local passenger trains stopping every station held up freight trains that did not need to stop. Now stopping a couple of railcars every 500 metres etc is a piece of cake but stopping a long freight train coming behind it all the time is not a good idea especially with much longer trains today. That is why they were separated in the first place one would not interfere then with the other! Which is the favoured way to do it overseas if it is possible!

Also  another thing is what would a modern freight train do to railcars stopped at a station in the event of a brake failure on the freight train, it would be really messy and a lot of questions raised as to why they were not left separate to each other as now! Also a freight going up the hills line can and did hold up suburban services when something went wrong, back in the days of the Red Hens it was just accepted, but I would say today that there would be lots of complaints etc about being late!

As Melbourne Metro services are also BG the system is not the orphan it is made out to be actually! Why spend millions converting it to SG when it would still remain as it is now, no sense in that at all and a sheer waste of money that could be better spent on electrifying the remaining tracks or something!
  rhino Chief Commissioner

Location: Oakbonk SA
David did you even read pafcmachine's post before you jumped in with your opinion? You seem to have simply ignored everything he wrote.
  SAR523 Assistant Commissioner

Location: Chicago, IL
pafcmachine - these are all good points.  However are there rough estimates of the costs of guage conversion vs the ongoing costs you raised?

If the former is orders of magnitude greater than the second, does it make sense to do? Or, how many years would it take to recoup the upfront cost through the effected savings?
  Alco_Haulic Chief Commissioner

Location: Eating out...
Talk about the Southern Expressway taking people off the trains is somewhat silly. With a lack of an appropriate connection north of Darlington, the time difference is horrendous. South road through Edwardstown is just an absolute nightmare at almost any time of year. The real problem is the city centric view of all transport modes in Adelaide. Which makes public transport an undesirable option for many.

Freight movements in SA, both metro and regional are too small to be economically viable for a rail. 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.

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