Why was the Mt Gambier line not standardised?

 
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
It's a real shame - the line was in good condition when closed in 1995. Granted, the passenger trains were not competitive but I think an operator with business acumen could have made chips and (possibly) timber from the mills a profitable proposition. The deterioration of the line now - after twenty years of closure - would probably deter any potential operators from wanting to take the line on; the last time I saw it there were places where the easement has been subject to landslide and considerable overgrowth.

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  LancedDendrite Chief Commissioner

Location: Gheringhap Loop Autonomous Zone
The time window to rehabilitate the line is or has closed - it needed to be standardised and rebuilt to an acceptable standard before the timber harvesting started in earnest, which would've been around 2008.

If there was ever an argument to be made for regionalisation - that is, devolving states into more numerous cross-state regions - Mt Gambier and Portland would be compelling evidence.
  james.au Minister for Railways

Location: Sydney, NSW
If there was ever an argument to be made for regionalisation - that is, devolving states into more numerous cross-state regions - Mt Gambier and Portland would be compelling evidence.
LancedDendrite
Agreed - with Albury and Wodonga.  Though what do the citizens of Mt Gambier and Portland think of each other.
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
The time window to rehabilitate the line is or has closed - it needed to be standardised and rebuilt to an acceptable standard before the timber harvesting started in earnest, which would've been around 2008.

If there was ever an argument to be made for regionalisation - that is, devolving states into more numerous cross-state regions - Mt Gambier and Portland would be compelling evidence.
LancedDendrite
There were a lot of unfortunate political circumstances in addition to the cross-border problem; given that GSR have lost nearly every other intra-state freight service since they took over I guess they might not have proven to be the best operator anyway. This is despite the fact that they're (apparently) quite good at rehabilitation of old services in the USA.

The easement is still there but the last time I drove along the Princes Hwy from Mt Gambier to Heywood the line had deteriorated to the point of having large trees growing right through the tracks (and that was several years ago). Hate to agree but I think the window of opportunity has well and truly been missed on commercial restoration of any kind of freight services - the sums involved would be too large - it's not just a case of moving one rail inwards any longer.
  nscaler69 Deputy Commissioner

Location: There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots.
given that GSR have lost nearly every other intra-state freight service since they took over I guess they might not have proven to be the best operator anyway. This is despite the fact that they're (apparently) quite good at rehabilitation of old services in the USA.
don_dunstan
I think you mean G&W not GSR.

Also didn't some of the real small players want to convert it but the State Government only wanted one of the big boys to convert and run the Mt Gambier line. Given Nat Rail didn't want it and G&W didn't take up the buy option when they bought the ex AN, the State Government almost ensured that it never would be used again, what also hasn't helped was the fact the Government wanted the whole line done at the same time and wouldn't allow the profitable? Mt Gambier to Vic border section to be done seperately.
  Pressman Spirit of the Vine

Location: Wherever the Tin Chook or Qantas takes me
given that GSR have lost nearly every other intra-state freight service since they took over I guess they might not have proven to be the best operator anyway. This is despite the fact that they're (apparently) quite good at rehabilitation of old services in the USA.

I think you mean G&W not GSR.

Also didn't some of the real small players want to convert it but the State Government only wanted one of the big boys to convert and run the Mt Gambier line. Given Nat Rail didn't want it and G&W didn't take up the buy option when they bought the ex AN, the State Government almost ensured that it never would be used again, what also hasn't helped was the fact the Government wanted the whole line done at the same time and wouldn't allow the profitable? Mt Gambier to Vic border section to be done seperately.
nscaler69
Actually the state government put $10m on the table towards gauge conversion many years ago (and apparently it's still there!)

That offer predates G&WA,

It goes back to when ASR was about. They did approach many industries in the South East and offered contracts for rail haulage, but it seems a certain SE based Trucking Boss ran around and undercut every proposed ASR contract.
So with no contracts available, ASR considered it unviable to take up the state government's offer (which at the time was reportedly approximately about a third of the cost to gauge convert.)
And so many years 'down the track' (yes pun intended) all that has happened is the removal of the Mt Gambier yard (by local council)
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
I think you mean G&W not GSR.

Also didn't some of the real small players want to convert it but the State Government only wanted one of the big boys to convert and run the Mt Gambier line. Given Nat Rail didn't want it and G&W didn't take up the buy option when they bought the ex AN, the State Government almost ensured that it never would be used again, what also hasn't helped was the fact the Government wanted the whole line done at the same time and wouldn't allow the profitable? Mt Gambier to Vic border section to be done seperately.
nscaler69
Oh yeah, G&W - not GSR.

At one stage about fifteen years ago I think Pac Nat (or someone like that?) was looking at reopening through to a wood-chip terminal somewhere on the other side of Mt. Gambier because they could see that the numbers would stack up for a relatively short-haul through to Portland. I remember the excuse at the time was an obstructive South Australian government who (at that time) didn't want their easements to be used to take freight interstate for export. Their argument was that it should go back through to Bordertown to go through Port Adelaide - clearly that was a ridiculous proposition.

I think the critical damage was done under Dean Brown/John Olsen, neither of whom really wanted to cooperate with the private sector to save the lines - while there was still something to save. Also confounded by a very short-sighted trucking industry down there - who viewed the closure of the railway as a good thing for their near-monopoly and (as Pressman points out) actively undermined any attempts to re-open the lines.
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
They did approach many industries in the South East and offered contracts for rail haulage, but it seems a certain SE based Trucking Boss ran around and undercut every proposed ASR contract.
Pressman
Some of the behaviour of that individual and his company was clearly NOT in the long-term interests of his community.

Actually it was incredibly short-sighted, condemning the South East to missing the next wave of integrated intermodal. Even Lindsay Fox's company is a dual rail/trucking concern now-days.
  Aaron The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: University of Adelaide SA
Many people around here give their 'certain trucking identity' too much reverence, appearing even unable to use his name as though he some trucking Voldemort. Scott didn't slay rail to the south east like a modern day St George, the south east rail, country rail in general in SA, fell on its own sword.
  bingley hall Minister for Railways

Location: Last train to Skaville
Good grief. There's a lot of bollocks being written on here. Too much I'm afraid to correct all of it.

But Aaron is right. The Scott factor is over played.

Pac Nat thwarted by the SA Government - that's a ripper.

One of the biggest villains was the Port of Portland who refused to co-operate seriously with any of the rail proponents.

There is someone who works in the Vic DoT today who could reveal all, but then he;d probably be out of a job.

We were both directors of a company that bid to run the line using the magical $10m.
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
One of the biggest villains was the Port of Portland who refused to co-operate seriously with any of the rail proponents.
bingley hall
Who owned the Port of Portland? Scott's group.

As someone who lived in the South East for a short time in the nineties I can tell you that Alan Scott had an incredible amount of power in that community through his newspaper and (then) TV station; Adelaide people had zero appreciation of what was going on. I for one didn't even know who Scotty was until I moved to the Mount. And after you live there for a while you get an appreciation of who was calling the shots in the South East and it certainly wasn't any elected politician...

The South East is a whole different world to the closeted climes of Adelaide, believe me - if Scotty says that railway is finished then you KNOW the railway is finished.

Pac Nat thwarted by the SA Government - that's a ripper.
bingley hall
They weren't 'thwarted' by the SA Government - they expressed an interest about twelve years ago in reopening it as a short haul route but the money set aside by former administration for gauge conversion wouldn't cut it any longer (because by then the line had deteriorated and needed more money). Mike Rann wasn't interested in putting up more South Australian government money - probably fair enough too.

The government and the potential private operators have never been able to reach agreement about how the reopened line should be used - that's at the core of the problem.
  steam4ian Chief Commissioner

"The government and the potential private operators have never been able to reach agreement about how the reopened line should be used - that's at the core of the problem."

Or for what?
  Aaron The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: University of Adelaide SA
Scott was a partial owner of the port of Portland, for only a few years from 1996. The rail line closed in 1995, so one would be hard pressed to blame Voldemort's ownership of the port for the line's demise.
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
Scott was a partial owner of the port of Portland, for only a few years from 1996. The rail line closed in 1995, so one would be hard pressed to blame Voldemort's ownership of the port for the line's demise.
Aaron
Yeah but it made an enormous difference in the years after closure when different operators were trying to get the Port of Portland on board with any rail haulage projects. It's a shame because apparently it's the best natural deep-water port in the country and its never been used to its full potential.

Or for what?
Steam4ian
You've hit the nail on the head there - apart from timber or wood-chips the markets are fairly limited for bulk haulage in the South East. There is certainly scope for something like a containerised interchange on the fringe of Mount Gambier (like Dooen near Horsham) but other than that a reopened line has a limited market... and probably only the section connecting with Heywood would have any chance at a future.
  Aaron The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: University of Adelaide SA
Portland is a good deep water port, but why sail to Portland when you need only bring the ships as far as Darwin, Sydney or Melbourne and rail your containers overland? Sailing containers (of what?) to Portland is non sense, and that most likely, not Scott, is the reason it's never been done. Ideas and lines on paper are nice and look good, but when you have to actually pay the bills your over romanticised views of how it could be have to give way to the cold hard rules of time and economics.
  hilly Locomotive Fireman

Location: Mount Gambier
The Mount Gambier City Council have nearly completed an expensive development of the rail land between Bay Road and Wehl Street(the area occupied by the old station and yard). I understand that a railway easement has been left through the area, but the rails etc have all been removed. I cannot visualise the  line will ever be reinstated.

Although there may be a case for using the line to Heywood and Portland for timber and woodchip traffic, it would involve building a loading point east of Mount Gambier and I doubt if there would be much support for this.

Meanwhile the Princes Highway between Mount Gambier and Heywood/Portland continues to deteriorate and there are many sections with "Caution Rough Surface Speed 80" signs.
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
Before Steve Bracks arbitrarily went with the decision to spend over a billion dollars on deepening Port Philip Bay they went through the motions of examining the alternatives.

The trouble with Portland is that it's too far away from potential freight generators - as you say. But an added problem has been, as Bingley Hall says, the lack of enthusiasm expressed by management about doing things like expanding bulk-haulage facilities or adding container cranes. The attitude seems to be one of not spending any money on trying to grow the business but instead just harvest rents from the users - perhaps management knows there's no point in trying to attract new business?

More recently the Andrews government has announced that actual $$$ will be spent on expanding the standard gauge intra-state lines to the Mildura group - perhaps making the Port of Portland more attractive for bulk haulage/containers via a re-opened Maryborough-Ararat line or a new line connecting it to the main west around Minyip or north of Warracknabeal. They haven't released the precise details yet but one of the project aims was to increase connectivity with Portland - I'm unsure if it will really make a lot of difference but we'll see.
  RustyRick Chief Commissioner

Location: South West Vic
Meanwhile the Princes Highway between Mount Gambier and Heywood/Portland continues to deteriorate and there are many sections with "Caution Rough Surface Speed 80" signs.
hilly
Yep. Vicroads have expended their annual SW region maintenance budget on signs...

Meanwhile one Portland transport company will be adding another 40 drivers to their roster. One chip mill is running trucks 24/7 into the Portland port. It's a busy place...

Rick
  LancedDendrite Chief Commissioner

Location: Gheringhap Loop Autonomous Zone
One thing that might spur the Port of Portland into action is the very likely closure of Alcoa's Portland Smelter in the medium-term. The SECV electricity contract runs out in 2017, which means the heavily subsidised price they pay for power does too. That means the Port of Portland won't be getting those regular alumina shipments to bolster its bottom line.

Given that the trend in container shipping is to do hubbing at Singapore and then go to ports like Port Adelaide instead of hubbing out of Melbourne or Botany Bay, there could indeed be potential to do container shipping out of Portland for the South-East SA and Western Victoria regions.
  michaelgreenhill Administrator That's Numberwang!

Location: Melbourne
...The SECV electricity contract runs out in 2017...
LancedDendrite
SECV? Far out, how old was that contract?
  LancedDendrite Chief Commissioner

Location: Gheringhap Loop Autonomous Zone
SECV? Far out, how old was that contract?
michaelgreenhill
Contract period is from 1986-2016.
Fun fact: the SECV still exists - as a shell entity that purchases electricity on the open market through Power Purchase Agreements and then sells it at the contract price to the Alcoa Portland aluminium smelter, incurring large losses to the State Government of Victoria in the process.
  bingley hall Minister for Railways

Location: Last train to Skaville
There was never any serious suggestion that Portland be used as an intermodal port.

It was for woodchips, grain and other bulk products.
  Aaron The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: University of Adelaide SA
I wouldn't have thought so, it doesn't make much sense to use it for containers or anything time sensitive.
  trainznbuses Train Controller

Location: Seacliff Park, SA
Surprised that @jm1941 has not contributed to this thread yet. He is a very knowledgeable man and I have a lot of time for his musings.
  RTT_Rules Oliver Bullied, CME

Location: Dubai UAE
Contract period is from 1986-2016.
Fun fact: the SECV still exists - as a shell entity that purchases electricity on the open market through Power Purchase Agreements and then sells it at the contract price to the Alcoa Portland aluminium smelter, incurring large losses to the State Government of Victoria in the process.
LancedDendrite
Fun Fact Number 2:

The power contract runs into the 2030's (2036 I think), it was renewed in 2009 (ish).

Fun Fact Number 3:

Unless you know the terms and conditions of the contract, don't guess its subsidised as you are spreading BS.

As I work in the industry I calculated the smelters power demand and x that by the power price Boyne Smelter pays (which is commercial rates) over 30 years and I don't even get a total bill that exceeds the so called total subsidy.

Remember smelters pay for their power to be delivered in HV, no distribution costs. Its vary's typically by less than 1% from max to min in any 24hr period and often over months. Its take or pay, ie they pay for it even if they don't use it and sign 30 year contracts and pay and end of month for the month passed. Its the kind of contract stuff that banks love as it provides guaranteed cash flow.  

Fun Fact Number 4:

Australian thermal gate power prices are some of cheapest in the developed world and also undeveloped world and the smelters are paying this + some more for profit + transmission. The fact that Australian house holds are paying as much as they are thanks to some of the incompetence at govt level including the previously added CO2 tax and deferred upgrades of the grid.

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