Coalition to spend $44m on Inland Rail connections

 
Topic moved from News by bevans on 23 Aug 2019 09:56
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
I do wonder if this will include upgrades to some lines in Victoria to enable access to the inland rail route but I suspect we might see the bulk of the cash going into Queensland and also NSW.

The good news really is the government sees opportunity in feeder lines for the network which is more in line with USA ways of using rail which have been quite successful.

Coalition to spend $44m on Inland Rail connections

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  SinickleBird Chief Train Controller

Location: Qantas Club at Mudgee International Airport
The $44m will be applied to fund business cases and cost-benefit analyses. Soft costs, in other words.

Nothing will actually be built with this allocation.

IR now has offices in Moree, Dubbo, Wodonga - plenty of office jobs created.

FFS! Our politicians sure know how to spend on paperwork and public servants!
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
I remain hopefully projects to leverage the massive investment we are making as a country in in land rail will be delivered.  Once the trunk route is completed the feeder lines will assist producers and customers greatly.

I can think of money to potentially convert some southern queensland lines to SG or DG.
  lkernan Deputy Commissioner

Location: Melbourne
Yep, all going on reports:

Under the program, $24 million will be spent to assess the costs and benefits of proposed improvements to country lines that will interact with Inland Rail. Another $20 million will be set aside for business cases looking at ways to further enhance supply chain productivity.
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  Sulla1 Chief Commissioner

At least $9.3-billion committed thus far (almost nine times the construction spend on the Alice Springs to Darwin Line) and the only new track/missing link to be built has been the North/West connection at Parkes - despite substantial federal funding having been available for at least the last six years. This line is fast becoming another living example of the ABC's "Utopia".
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
What are you thoughts @Sulla1 on the upgrade potential of southern Queensland lines tied into the inland trunk route?
  RTT_Rules Dr Beeching

Location: Dubai UAE
At least $9.3-billion committed thus far (almost nine times the construction spend on the Alice Springs to Darwin Line) and the only new track/missing link to be built has been the North/West connection at Parkes - despite substantial federal funding having been available for at least the last six years. This line is fast becoming another living example of the ABC's "Utopia".
Sulla1

Yes, but look at the funding allocations and time frame for the Inland. Has there ever, I mean ever been a commitment to finish this before around 2025? Nope! It is wrong to say or assume there is $9.3B sitting on a ledger just waiting to be spent now, rather its allocated over 8 years.

By the time the Inland is finished in 2025, it would have been a progressively funded project for over 20 years, starting with the existing line from Mel to Parkes and then moving north.

There has been no funding allocation to start on the serious work from North Star to Acacia Ridge apart from completing the feas study which was only completed last year. North Star to Acacia Ridge was last tie I read a 5 year project, the longest lead item being the 6km long tunnel east of Toowoomba and expected to start 2020-21 (as far as I can remember).

The whole problem with the Inland is that after Howard stated it was the most bankable project in Australia with the private sector leading the way. However, the reality is the whole project is marginal and unlikely will recover its construction costs or at least be a commercially viable project in its own right over a 50 year time frame (yes I still support the Inland).

https://inlandrail.artc.com.au/faqs/faqs#question25993
https://inlandrail.artc.com.au/NS2B

How will the Inland Rail be delivered?The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) are responsible for delivering the Inland Rail project. They have divided the route into 13 individual projects across Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. Contracts have been awarded for these sections and construction began this year. It is expected the project will be fully delivered by 2024/25.
https://blog.iseekplant.com.au/blog/melbourne-to-brisbane-inland-rail-project
  RTT_Rules Dr Beeching

Location: Dubai UAE
bevansWhat are you thoughts @Sulla1 on the upgrade potential of southern Queensland lines tied into the inland trunk route?
The Inland passes most of the active loading points used by the SW lines and Qld govt has already indicated it will hand over the SW network.

The only line with a future is the corridor Inland to Goonda and potentially through to Thallon, however the longterm failure of SA grain line examples does not bode well for funding through to Thallon.

Parts of the [color=#0b0080][size=2][font=sans-serif]Millmerran[/font][/size][/color] Line corridor will be taken over by the Inland.
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
I would not personally compare SA grain line failure to what is happening in Queensland and the inland rail network.  SA's poor management of the rail network under GWA is a separate issue.
  don_dunstan Minister for Railways

Location: Adelaide proud
I would not personally compare SA grain line failure to what is happening in Queensland and the inland rail network.  SA's poor management of the rail network under GWA is a separate issue.
bevans
Agreed, the SA regional network was allowed to fail by successive SA governments. Unfortunate but that's just what happened.
  james.au Chief Commissioner

Location: Sydney, NSW
bevansWhat are you thoughts @Sulla1 on the upgrade potential of southern Queensland lines tied into the inland trunk route?
The Inland passes most of the active loading points used by the SW lines and Qld govt has already indicated it will hand over the SW network.

The only line with a future is the corridor Inland to Goonda and potentially through to Thallon, however the longterm failure of SA grain line examples does not bode well for funding through to Thallon.

Parts of the [color=#0b0080][size=2][font=sans-serif]Millmerran[/font][/size][/color] Line corridor will be taken over by the Inland.
RTT_Rules
Im on record saying Goonda-Thallon should go SG.  There is precedent for this with the SA/VIC branchline conversions.

The line out to Miles might make sense to go SG too, perhaps even Roma and the Wandoan and Grantchester branches.   Pretty well all of the SWQ grain area will be connected But not more than that.  Close the rest.  The cattle trains can be roaded to new loading points in say Roma if the cattle trains continue.
  RTT_Rules Dr Beeching

Location: Dubai UAE
The western line is tricky as this is where politics will get involved.

Coal obviously.

Grain, likely

Cattle, mmmm, how much and where do they run too.

Passenger.........I think it will be a major boost for passenger rail, but is the Qld govt willing to invest in SG DMU's to run a truncated Westie via AR and much are they willing to trucate it.
Are people ready to accept it might not even run to Roma St and certain times of day.
  RTT_Rules Dr Beeching

Location: Dubai UAE
Any idea what is the current traffic is on the Western Line and where from?

Any cattle west of Roma anymore?

What grain is left?


SW line, off the top of my head
- Brookstead (Mill' Line), grain
- Goonda grain and cotton?
- Thallon grain

Yielding a combined 2 trains a week, but constrained by the Range, so there is alot of spill over to truck
  Sulla1 Chief Commissioner

Any idea what is the current traffic is on the Western Line and where from?

Any cattle west of Roma anymore?

What grain is left?


SW line, off the top of my head
- Brookstead (Mill' Line), grain
- Goonda grain and cotton?
- Thallon grain

Yielding a combined 2 trains a week, but constrained by the Range, so there is alot of spill over to truck
RTT_Rules
Grain produced around the Western and South Western lines can be anywhere between 200,000-tonnes and 2-million tonnes per annum. The Brookstead and Meandara branches are the only grain branches left in the region. Cotton is currently moved by road, but Watco may chase it back to rail when it takes over the Queensland GrainCorp contract in November - it is already planning to run container trains from Toowoomba to Fishermans Island. By 2020, Watco is likely to be the only rail operator serving the Southern and South Western Lines. GrainCorp's primary grain loading sites for Watco will be Malu and Miles on the Western Line, Meandara, Brookstead, and Goondiwindi West, Talwood and Thallon on the South Western Line.

Cattle currently comes from Quilpie (just a couple of trains this year), while a new loading point at Morven is being spoken about - this is the only freight traffic west of Miles - with grain and coal originating east of the latter. Aurizon currently handles all the cattle and coal trains on this corridor.

Safe to say there will be zero economic demand to gauge convert the Western Line west of Miles (it's 209km from Toowoomba to Miles, and it's another 628km from Miles to Quilpie ). Goodiwindi to Thallon (149km of track) may stack up as GrainCorp's main grain loading line in Queensland.
  james.au Chief Commissioner

Location: Sydney, NSW
By 2020, Watco is likely to be the only rail operator serving the Southern and South Western Lines..
Sulla1
This here is the important factor in this.  Once this happens, there is no competitive check on rail freight rates and they will approach road rates (I have seen this happen elsewhere where freight has been pushed to rail as the rail operator is charging like a monopolist).  Watco will trend to charge road rates for rail services and more freight than should will end up on roads.

It is this competition angle that I don't think any government has yet fully appreciated in developing rail investment policies.  Standardising these lines will ensure that PN, Aurizon SG, Qube and SSR can also work (plus others such as LINX perhaps) them and provide the competitive pressure to keep rail rates where they should be, and effectively compete against road.
  Sulla1 Chief Commissioner

By 2020, Watco is likely to be the only rail operator serving the Southern and South Western Lines..
This here is the important factor in this.  Once this happens, there is no competitive check on rail freight rates and they will approach road rates (I have seen this happen elsewhere).  Watch will charge road rates for rail services and more freight than should will end up on roads.

It is this competition angle that I don't think any government has yet fully appreciated in developing rail investment policies.  Standardising these lines will ensure that PN, Aurizon SG, Qube and SSR can also work (plus others such as LINX perhaps) them and provide the competitive pressure to keep rail rates where they should be, and effectively compete against road.
james.au
I'm hearing you, but these lines have been Open Access for the last twenty years, and will continue to be when Watco takes over the only current freight traffic (grain) on the South Western Line. If Watco can afford to invest in new rollingstock for these lines, then so could PN, SSR and Qube (all of whom have purchased new grain rollingstock in the past) - that they haven't is more an indictment of Southern Queensland geography, their operating philosophies or the traffic potential of the region. That Watco has based its operations and Queensland headquarters in Warwick suggests this is a company that intends to grow rail business in the region rather than strangle it from Brisbane or Sydney.

Add to this, presuming the Inland Rail and gauge standardisation happens before 2030, then Watco will still have the GrainCorp contract despite which ever competitors show up with standard gauge wagons in the aftermath.
  james.au Chief Commissioner

Location: Sydney, NSW
I'm hearing you, but these lines have been Open Access for the last twenty years, and will continue to be when Watco takes over the only current freight traffic (grain) on the South Western Line. If Watco can afford to invest in new rollingstock for these lines, then so could PN, SSR and Qube (all of whom have purchased new grain rollingstock in the past) - that they haven't is more an indictment of Southern Queensland geography, their operating philosophies or the traffic potential of the region. That Watco has based its operations and Queensland headquarters in Warwick suggests this is a company that intends to grow rail business in the region rather than strangle it from Brisbane or Sydney.

Add to this, presuming the Inland Rail and gauge standardisation happens before 2030, then Watco will still have the GrainCorp contract despite which ever competitors show up with standard gauge wagons in the aftermath.
Sulla1
They have been open access yes, but the cost to enter the market is high and it took a 10 year hook and pull contract from GrainCorp for Watco to make that investment.  And the reality I see is that Watco is doing all it can to find business to support that fleet over and above the GC volumes, not grow new business that supports other fleet.  

There are no aggregated and large volumes such as the GrainCorp one that other operators can use to justify fleet investment like Watco has and so there will be no investment by them due to risk.  Im sure that PN/QUBE etc would be the ones making the investment if they were the ones who signed the hook and pull.  But there are significant disaggregate volumes (ie from different customers) that are road hauled that are probably looking for a cheaper rail haul rate (plus some investment in terminals etc say in Roma/Miles/Goondi).

The cost to enter an SG haulage market is much lower (pretty well none from a fixed perspective) given the extant fleets and given the ability to share the overheads and get some efficiencies our of variable costs (eg common driver pools etc) the variable costs for SG operators will no doubt be lower than the restricted NG operators.

These disaggregate volumes are also at risk due to drought and having a common SG fleet that can get better utilisation and probably smooth the task (over time) out over the whole SG network would I'm sure lead to lower risk and fleet availability to do the SWQ work as part of the broader East Coast market, instead of a quarrantined part of it.

We are seeing some of this happen on the BG network as it goes SG, SG locos doing more work across a wider network etc.  I don't see any different for the NG network.  If you could operate G/81/BL class or any other  from Roma to Pt Augusta etc that's a lot of potential utilisation for those fleets and a lot of potential cost efficiency that could lead to lower rates and better mode shares.
  RTT_Rules Dr Beeching

Location: Dubai UAE
They have been open access yes, but the cost to enter the market is high and it took a 10 year hook and pull contract from GrainCorp for Watco to make that investment.  And the reality I see is that Watco is doing all it can to find business to support that fleet over and above the GC volumes, not grow new business that supports other fleet.  

There are no aggregated and large volumes such as the GrainCorp one that other operators can use to justify fleet investment like Watco has and so there will be no investment by them due to risk.  Im sure that PN/QUBE etc would be the ones making the investment if they were the ones who signed the hook and pull.  But there are significant disaggregate volumes (ie from different customers) that are road hauled that are probably looking for a cheaper rail haul rate (plus some investment in terminals etc say in Roma/Miles/Goondi).

The cost to enter an SG haulage market is much lower (pretty well none from a fixed perspective) given the extant fleets and given the ability to share the overheads and get some efficiencies our of variable costs (eg common driver pools etc) the variable costs for SG operators will no doubt be lower than the restricted NG operators.

These disaggregate volumes are also at risk due to drought and having a common SG fleet that can get better utilisation and probably smooth the task (over time) out over the whole SG network would I'm sure lead to lower risk and fleet availability to do the SWQ work as part of the broader East Coast market, instead of a quarrantined part of it.

We are seeing some of this happen on the BG network as it goes SG, SG locos doing more work across a wider network etc.  I don't see any different for the NG network.  If you could operate G/81/BL class or any other  from Roma to Pt Augusta etc that's a lot of potential utilisation for those fleets and a lot of potential cost efficiency that could lead to lower rates and better mode shares.
james.au
Interesting

I was thinking same with the SWQ grain silo's access converted to SG via Inland, the advantages for rail operators are.
- Eliminates gauge isolation risk. ie loose the contract, what do you do now? With SG, your fleet is flexible from SWQ to SA
- Axle loads can increase by around 25%, most of which will be grain, not wagon weight. Faster loading and unloading times.
- Up to half the current rail transit time
- Trains lengths likely to increase by 20-30%
- Greater number of paths available

For the grain companies,
- increased competition from rail operators

So with the Inland, we should really see grain switch from road to rail and could be seeing again in good years +1mtpa of grain hauled to PoB from Qld alone and potentially North Star and the Moree district if overall rates are cheaper than going via Newcastle.

Meanwhile, few will invest in NG infrastructure that cannot make a return within 5 years with the future of the NG looking bleak, especially SW line. The coal traffic may hold on for a short while, but I wouldn't hold my breath on that.

Going by Sulla's comments, the state govt is likely going to have to make a call on how far west to push the SG and beyond Miles or maybe Roma would seem hard to justify.

I know in the ARTC documents on the Inland they refer to DG up the range to Gowrie, but you have to wonder if this is just a waste of money. The old route will obviously remain open for a short time for NG traffic off the Western line. But better to spend the money pushing SG west of Gowrie sooner rather than later and likewise PoB needs.  Maybe just shut the whole thing down for 6mth and get the job done, end NG operations west of Rosewood, forever.
  RTT_Rules Dr Beeching

Location: Dubai UAE
By 2020, Watco is likely to be the only rail operator serving the Southern and South Western Lines..
This here is the important factor in this.  Once this happens, there is no competitive check on rail freight rates and they will approach road rates (I have seen this happen elsewhere where freight has been pushed to rail as the rail operator is charging like a monopolist).  Watco will trend to charge road rates for rail services and more freight than should will end up on roads.

It is this competition angle that I don't think any government has yet fully appreciated in developing rail investment policies.  Standardising these lines will ensure that PN, Aurizon SG, Qube and SSR can also work (plus others such as LINX perhaps) them and provide the competitive pressure to keep rail rates where they should be, and effectively compete against road.
james.au
I don't think the SW line offers rail operators much flexibility in being able to undercut the road operators. Its longer and alot slower. 1 rake maybe able to do 3 trips a week, each wagon hauling similar to a truck load. 1 truck can do one trip a day.
  james.au Chief Commissioner

Location: Sydney, NSW
I don't think the SW line offers rail operators much flexibility in being able to undercut the road operators. Its longer and alot slower. 1 rake maybe able to do 3 trips a week, each wagon hauling similar to a truck load. 1 truck can do one trip a day.
RTT_Rules
We have gone and quickly turned this into the SWQ standardisation thread again haha.

In all honesty though i wasn't considering that as in the DG future of the Inland in SWQ this is abandoned anyway and the traffic goes on the DG Inland.  Even so, the NG branches will not see any significant investment by other operators in fleet and Watco will keep their little monopoly going...
  james.au Chief Commissioner

Location: Sydney, NSW


So with the Inland, we should really see grain switch from road to rail and could be seeing again in good years +1mtpa of grain hauled to PoB from Qld alone and potentially North Star and the Moree district if overall rates are cheaper than going via Newcastle.

Meanwhile, few will invest in NG infrastructure that cannot make a return within 5 years with the future of the NG looking bleak, especially SW line. The coal traffic may hold on for a short while, but I wouldn't hold my breath on that.

Going by Sulla's comments, the state govt is likely going to have to make a call on how far west to push the SG and beyond Miles or maybe Roma would seem hard to justify.

I know in the ARTC documents on the Inland they refer to DG up the range to Gowrie, but you have to wonder if this is just a waste of money. The old route will obviously remain open for a short time for NG traffic off the Western line. But better to spend the money pushing SG west of Gowrie sooner rather than later and likewise PoB needs.  Maybe just shut the whole thing down for 6mth and get the job done, end NG operations west of Rosewood, forever.
RTT_Rules
1. Re newcastle - paths are possibly more difficult to get there for grain given the significant coal traffic so they may not care if some of the northern catchment goes via BNE

2. The ARTC docs were written quite some time ago and whilst some design money has been spent, it would be very easy to save the project some money and get rid of the third rail for a decent portion of the way.

In my view Qld TMR needs to get its act together and have a proper strategic think about what they want.  Do they want more road traffic coming down the range or do they want to make use of the Fed government investment?

And Watco in Warwick - I'm sure they'd move in a flash if they had to - there hasn't been much spent yet there im sure...
  RTT_Rules Dr Beeching

Location: Dubai UAE
We have gone and quickly turned this into the SWQ standardisation thread again haha. In all honesty though i wasn't considering that as in the DG future of the Inland in SWQ this is abandoned anyway and the traffic goes on the DG Inland. Even so, the NG branches will not see any significant investment by other operators in fleet and Watco will keep their little monopoly going..
James.au
1. Re newcastle - paths are possibly more difficult to get there for grain given the significant coal traffic so they may not care if some of the northern catchment goes via BNE 2. The ARTC docs were written quite some time ago and whilst some design money has been spent, it would be very easy to save the project some money and get rid of the third rail for a decent portion of the way. In my view Qld TMR needs to get its act together and have a proper strategic think about what they want. Do they want more road traffic coming down the range or do they want to make use of the Fed government investment? And Watco in Warwick - I'm sure they'd move in a flash if they had to - there hasn't been much spent yet there im sure..
James.au
By road, Moree is 25km closer to Brisbane, but lets call it even. However by rail I suspect that PoB may be faster as the Inland likely have better alignment and as you say less coal to fight with. I think the days of NSW govt caring which port the NSW harvested grain went to is long over.

What I think we all agree should happen is the entire rail network is SG'ed and NG west of Rosewood closed apart from SDR wants to take on.

What I think we all agree that the likely hood of the Qld govt pulling their finger out, going to the Fed's asking for say $50-100M to contribute is buckleys as in true Qld fashion they will do nothing and expect the feds to do it and then 10 years later the NG will be run into the ground and progressively closed anyway.

I think SG to Miles is the likely a given and if the Qld govt played their cards right they could get assisted funding to SG to Roma and build a  multi purpose inland port/ transfer yard.  

A 6/7 days a week daily return DMU Brisbane to Roma rail service with a run time of around 5-6h may also prove popular (at least at the ballet box) and enable the govt to pull back from the subsidised air service as well as appease those objecting to closure of the rail network further west.

With the SG, Toowoomba would justify its own IU rail service with connection at Rosewood for express to City to offset the longer travel time via the SG and conflicts its causes in peak.
  james.au Chief Commissioner

Location: Sydney, NSW
Agree across the board there RTT.
I feel though @Sulla1 has other views and is letting us run away with our thoughts for a bit!
  Sulla1 Chief Commissioner

Agree across the board there RTT.
I feel though @Sulla1 has other views and is letting us run away with our thoughts for a bit!
james.au

Not really different views, just more cynical about the various governments spending any more money than they have to. The most likely funding is the Thallon line with its big grain tonnages, but the 149km of regauged track could cost close to the Mildura conversion to achieve a 25-tonne axle load - and if that's the case I can't see several hundred milliion more being allocated to regauge the Western Line. I think the most likely scenario for the post Inland railscape is Goondiwindi to Thallon converted to standard gauge, east of Goondiwindi closed, the Brookstead branch replaced by the Inland Railway, and the Western and Meandara lines retained as narrow gauge (or closed). With thermal coal becoming unpredictable and New Acland already in trouble, I just can't see any government agency putting forward a standard gauge option west of Toowoomba - particularly by the time we get to the late 2020s.
  james.au Chief Commissioner

Location: Sydney, NSW
Agree across the board there RTT.
I feel though @Sulla1 has other views and is letting us run away with our thoughts for a bit!

Not really different views, just more cynical about the various governments spending any more money than they have to. The most likely funding is the Thallon line with its big grain tonnages, but the 149km of regauged track could cost close to the Mildura conversion to achieve a 25-tonne axle load - and if that's the case I can't see several hundred milliion more being allocated to regauge the Western Line. I think the most likely scenario for the post Inland railscape is Goondiwindi to Thallon converted to standard gauge, east of Goondiwindi closed, the Brookstead branch replaced by the Inland Railway, and the Western and Meandara lines retained as narrow gauge (or closed). With thermal coal becoming unpredictable and New Acland already in trouble, I just can't see any government agency putting forward a standard gauge option west of Toowoomba - particularly by the time we get to the late 2020s.
Sulla1
I don't think that 25TAL would be necessary west of Goondiwindi.  Yes, connect the large sites (and any potential future intermodal) at Goondi to 25TAL as that won't be that much but do (20km max I'm guessing) but the line west of Goondi to say 21TAL would be enough.  East to Warwick and Toowomba will close yes because why would it be needed?  Sorry Warwick....

Dalby-Miles will have a lot of grain still so perhaps 21TAL there to Toowomba (and perhaps Grandchester to the large site there too).  Some of these can be low speed, eg 60 or 80kph cos an hour or two isn't going to add much to cost compared to the productivity increase.  In drought years i can envisage southern grains coming up by rail to the feedlots etc there.  I suspect a bit of the current traffic to Moree is actually roading further north from there, though no evidence of that.

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