Why was the Mt Gambier line not standardised?

 
  james.au Minister for Railways

Location: Sydney, NSW
A simple question really, when the Western Standard gauge line was formed, the Loxton, Pinaroo, Yapeet, Hopetoun, Portland and Maryborough lines were converted.  For what reason was the Mt Gambier line not standardised (from Wolsely to Portland) at the same time?

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  Pressman Spirit of the Vine

Location: Wherever the Tin Chook or Qantas takes me
A simple question really, when the Western Standard gauge line was formed, the Loxton, Pinaroo, Yapeet, Hopetoun, Portland and Maryborough lines were converted.  For what reason was the Mt Gambier line not standardised (from Wolsely to Portland) at the same time?
jamesbushell.au
The answer would be {insert any of a lame governments 1,025,000 excuses for not spending money here}
  9034 Train Controller

A simple question really, when the Western Standard gauge line was formed, the Loxton, Pinaroo, Yapeet, Hopetoun, Portland and Maryborough lines were converted.  For what reason was the Mt Gambier line not standardised (from Wolsely to Portland) at the same time?
jamesbushell.au
Low usage is the reason given in the One Nation statement from Paul Keating although exact figures for freight / Passengers are not mentioned.  http://www.voced.edu.au/content/ngv%3A675

There have been several other threads on Railpage about reopening on standard gauge, mostly about the link to Portland for woodchip traffic and I seem to  remember a thread about a proposal from GWA that wasn't accepted by the SA Government.
  steam4ian Chief Commissioner

SA didn't have any bargaining room for funds the standardise the SE lines. It had been allocated funds under the Wentworth (rail standardisation) Plan c 1950 which SA spent on converting the SE lines from 3' 6" to 5' 3" and corresponding upgrading. One condition for getting funds from the Wentworth Plan was that the future cost of conversion from BG to SG would be born by SA indemnifying the Commonwealth.
It is quite likely pressure from a certain road operator didn't help SA finding the funds in 1985.

Compared with WA and NSW, SA seemed historically to fare vary badly out of standardisation deals.
  Alco_Haulic Chief Commissioner

Location: Eating out...
It is quite likely pressure from a certain road operator didn't help SA finding the funds in 1985.
steam4ian
And it's interesting to see what a shambles said operators company has become since their passing.
  RTT_Rules Oliver Bullied, CME

Location: Dubai UAE
Reality check.

Lets say it was converted at the time. How much if any traffic would be on it now? We paid for the conversion of the Mallee lines and now they are closing and the tonnages don't justify much else.
  awsgc24 Minister for Railways

Location: Sydney
SA didn't have any bargaining room for funds the standardise the SE lines. It had been allocated funds under the Wentworth (rail standardisation) Plan c 1950 which SA spent on converting the SE lines from 3' 6" to 5' 3" and corresponding upgrading. One condition for getting funds from the Wentworth Plan was that the future cost of conversion from BG to SG would be born by SA indemnifying the Commonwealth.
It is quite likely pressure from a certain road operator didn't help SA finding the funds in 1985.

Compared with WA and NSW, SA seemed historically to fare vary badly out of standardisation deals.
steam4ian
The steel sleepers on the South-East, which for a while carried NG and BG tracks, also had holes drilled in them to suit SG.
  LancedDendrite Chief Commissioner

Location: Gheringhap Loop Autonomous Zone
There was/is substantial export woodchip traffic in the Green Triangle region - was around 4 million tonnes per annum in 2010. Most processing centres (woodchip mills, pulp mills) are between Penola-Mt Gambier and Mt Gambier-Heywood, which meant that potentially short-haul export woodchip rail traffic could go to the Port of Portland from the mills. ~3.5 million tonnes per annum out to 2020, according to the Green Triangle Freight Action Plan in 2009.
Handy-dandy map here: http://www.planningplantations.com.au/assets/pdfs/management/transport/GTRPCWoodFlowBrochure.pdf

In 2009 it was predicted that 1.7 million tonnes per annum would be carried by road to Portland along the Mt Gambier-Heywood corridor, and 1.2 million tonnes per annum between Penola and Mt Gambier.

If the line had been standardised in the 2000s it could've picked up those freight volumes. State Government should've picked up the tab to fix up the line - that initial capital expenditure is/was the biggest obstacle to getting rail freight up and running in the area.

There was a proposed pulp mill to be built in Penola by Protavia a few years ago that would've sent 350,000-750,000 tonnes per annum of pulp via rail to Adelaide (or Melbourne). It involved the re-opening of the Penola-Wolesley section of the Mt Gambier railway line and may have also involved back-loading of hydrogen peroxide (200,000 tonnes per annum) via rail.
It fell over - lack of water, lack of power and shady proponents all played a role, it seems.

Aside: there's a woodchip mill at Myamyn adjacent to the Maroona-Hamilton railway line near Heywood. 1.3 million tonnes per annum of woodchips were expected to be exported from that mill when the Green Triangle Freight Action Plan was published in 2009. Only a ~40km trip to the Port of Portland for export, but the freight volumes involved could've been winnable for a scrappy shortline operator.
  L1150 Assistant Commissioner

Location: Pakenham Vic.
I second those who have mentioned the intense lobbying of a certain road operator in the Mt. Gambier area. Who that night be, I've Scott no idea.Laughing
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
There was/is substantial export woodchip traffic in the Green Triangle region - was around 4 million tonnes per annum in 2010. Most processing centres (woodchip mills, pulp mills) are between Penola-Mt Gambier and Mt Gambier-Heywood, which meant that potentially short-haul export woodchip rail traffic could go to the Port of Portland from the mills. million tonnes per annum of woodchips were expected to be exported from that mill when the Green Triangle Freight Action Plan was published in 2009. Only a ~40km trip to the Port of Portland for export, but the freight volumes involved could've been winnable for a scrappy shortline operator.
LancedDendrite
There were lots of opportunities wasted but the political environment also conspired against re-opening of the line. Trucking companies (one in particular) aggressively competing for the business and lobbying the authorities against the line as others have pointed out here; but also the fact that South Australia ultimately didn't want to pitch in for a rail link to export wood-chips from the South East through the Port of Portland. All indications are that the line from the mills to port would have been a viable proposition though.

It's a shame because there would have been benefits to that community apart from cheaper haulage; heavy truck traffic in the South East is a significant turn-off as a visiting motorist.
  mclaren2007 Assistant Commissioner

Location: recharging my myki
I think the real reason actually occurred before Federation, when these idiot colonies couldn't agree on a railway gauge and just built what they wanted. Then when it came to standardise the railway in the 1990's - bits got cut out.
  james.au Minister for Railways

Location: Sydney, NSW
heavy truck traffic in the South East is a significant turn-off as a visiting motorist.
don_dunstan
How can that be costed?
  james.au Minister for Railways

Location: Sydney, NSW
but also the fact that South Australia ultimately didn't want to pitch in for a rail link to export wood-chips from the South East through the Port of Portland.
don_dunstan

Im assuming that the chips still go to Portland anyway?
  justapassenger Minister for Railways

All indications are that the line from the mills to port would have been a viable proposition though.
don_dunstan
But it's a flight of fantasy to suggest that any of the knuckle draggers running the above-rail operators in Australia would have been capable of winning the business, let alone retaining it.

Certainly in South Australia, it is starting to appear that the current state government's policy for all non-interstate lines is one of managed decline and not of continued operation.
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
Im assuming that the chips still go to Portland anyway?
jamesbushell.au
Yes, trucked usually via the Princes Hwy and Henty Hwy.

How can that be costed?
jamesbushell.au
RE: Traffic congestion, I think it's worse for locals than visitors. Locals are taught that lots of trucks on the road is good for Mt Gambier and the South East - I think they have learned to live with it.

But it's a flight of fantasy to suggest that any of the knuckle draggers running the above-rail operators in Australia would have been capable of winning the business, let alone retaining it.
Justapassenger
The problem is not just a lack of willing and inventive short-haul operators and a disinterested government - it's also the fact that in the country many farmers and graziers owner/operate their own haulage businesses off-season so politically the environment isn't favourable towards railways either.

Something definitely needs to change - a short haul run like Snuggery-Portland or Tarpeena-Portland would have been right up the alley of an operator in the USA.
  Z VAN Locomotive Driver

I realize that or it appears no Australian Rail Operator other than the Iron Ore lines in WA seem to want to invest themselves and just sit around waiting for the Government to build the line, then they run the train.
The line to Portland say up to the year 2000 would have been able to be gauge converted for a modest amount to run chip trains.
Rail operators always believe the loads have to exceed x millions of tons before it is worth while.
From what is said on this forum the tons are there so an Operator could have been shopping for loading and once a contract was secured sort out the gauge.
All to late for that now as the twenty year gap in running trains means the whole track/sleepers would need replacing and only a Government could fund the conversion.
The Victorian Government should have provided the money  to Portland as the local benefits were to Vic. more than SA.
Unfortunately for both Governments the area is seen to be far from the Capital City so they believe what ever is done will benefit the other state and as a result nothing is done with no benefit to anyone.  
I was surprised when the standard gauge to Portland via Maroona was completed the Heywood section to Mt Gambier was not included.
Opportunities possibly lost forever. I hope I am wrong.
  Alco_Haulic Chief Commissioner

Location: Eating out...
I think the real reason actually occurred before Federation, when these idiot colonies couldn't agree on a railway gauge and just built what they wanted. Then when it came to standardise the railway in the 1990's - bits got cut out.
mclaren2007
The origins of the gauge debacle from everything I've read can be attributed to NSW.
  LancedDendrite Chief Commissioner

Location: Gheringhap Loop Autonomous Zone
And Victorian Governor LaTrobe's refusal to change gauge to 4'8½" after NSW had done so.
  james.au Minister for Railways

Location: Sydney, NSW
Why did he not?
  Donald Chief Commissioner

Location: Donald. Duck country.
Because after agreeing to broad gauge, NSW suddenly decided to change their minds after Victoria had started to build their track to broad gauge.
  james.au Minister for Railways

Location: Sydney, NSW
Why could they not change?
  LancedDendrite Chief Commissioner

Location: Gheringhap Loop Autonomous Zone
Why did he not?
jamesbushell.au

In short? Because he (Governor LaTrobe) could - and bugger the indecisive northerners!

From Mills 2006 ("The Myth of The Standard Gauge: Rail Gauge Choice in Australia, 1850-1901"), pp 127-128:

As pointed out, the Minutes of the Melbourne & Hobson’s Bay Company of 4 April noted receipt of a letter from the Colonial Secretary stating that LaTrobe intended to recommend adherence to a gauge of 5ft. 3in. The argument put by some historians (for example, Blainey 2001, p. 250, Gunn 1989, pp. 28 — 9) that Victoria's election of 5ft. 3in. reflected commitment to orders placed for locomotives and rolling stock at that gauge is at variance with the evidence presented above. It is clear that the directors of the Melbourne & Hobson’s Bay Railway Company and the Geelong and Melbourne Railway Company did not order railway equipment until after being advised by Governor LaTrobe that he favoured a gauge of 5ft. 3in. These historians also ignore the less than unanimous support for the gauge of 5ft. 3in. by the companies themselves.

The timing is such that we can be almost certain that this decision was nothing more nor less than an expression of LaTrobe’s personal opinion, based on the opinions received from two companies. There is no evidence that any kind of disciplined analysis of the various gauge options available to Victoria was carried out or that any attempt had been made to consider any difference there may have been in NSW/Victorian conditions. On 28 July 1853. some three months after his decision had been made, LaTrobe advised the Governor General that he declined to cooperate in the choice of 4ft. 8½in.
  james.au Minister for Railways

Location: Sydney, NSW
Now that is interesting forensic history. Very much appreciate the link.
  mclaren2007 Assistant Commissioner

Location: recharging my myki
Very interesting indeed. It seems a few egos got in the way, not realising the long term problems their decisions would have.
  Pressman Spirit of the Vine

Location: Wherever the Tin Chook or Qantas takes me
Very interesting indeed. It seems a few egos got in the way, not realising the long term problems their decisions would have.
mclaren2007
Just like the politicians of today!

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