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Friday, August 7, 2009
Tasmania’s railways need a long term plan
Community public and rail transport advocacy group Future Transport Tasmania (FTT) today launched its ‘Vision for Tasmania’s railway future’ at the Tasmanian Transport Museum at Glenorchy. FTT has developed a wide-ranging long-term plan that, if implemented, could ensure Tasmania’s railway system recovers to become an economic strength for the state. The plan is a broad submission designed to show just some of the potential future options for rail in Tasmania.
FTT strongly believes that for the railways to prosper into the future they should remain in Government hands. The last decade has shown that relying on private companies to invest in rail carries considerable risk. With the current world financial climate, it also seems extremely unlikely that a private operator could be found who is willing to invest significantly in Tasmania’s railways.
FTT recognises that implementing its vision would be expensive, but when compared to the cost of building and maintaining highways, investment in rail is far more cost-effective. The vision would also of necessity be implemented over a number of years, and specific elements would require further study before being implemented.
FTT Spokesperson, Toby Rowallan, said; ‘This is our vision for the future of Tasmania’s railways. Whilst it may appear expensive, it is a long-term plan aimed at turning the performance of rail from being a struggling poor cousin of road transport, to becoming a competitive service that enhances Tasmania’s economy. For example, the money being spent on the Brighton bypass and the Kingston bypass would pay for many of the items in the plan. As it stands, the construction of the bypasses will impose additional future maintenance costs. Not only that, but the improvement in travel times made possible by the bypasses, will be completely disproportional to the money spent.’
‘We do not want history to be repeated. The Government has to keep the railways to ensure certainty, for the future growth of rail and the economy. Investment will assist in generating revenue, but it is not essential for a government owned railway to make a profit. What is essential is assisting businesses who are using the railways, so that they can grow and further our economic development.’
‘We understand that the Government did not want to take over the railways, but we applaud them for committing to rail and ensuring its survival. We want the Government to now go beyond that, and create a plan to ensure its prosperity and growth. This will greatly assist Tasmania’s economic growth and success. The railways need new locomotives, new rolling-stock, the tight corners straightened and the steep grades eased. Once that is done, then we will be able to say that the railways have really been saved.’
See the summary below and a link to the full document
Since 1978, Tasmania’s rail services have been compromised by the competing ideals of running a profitable transport entity whilst avoiding significant investment and maintenance costs.
A series of ownership changes and a lack of political will, have almost destroyed what was once an economic strength for Tasmania.
It is time to look to the future, and consider carefully the rail system that Tasmania needs to have, and to plan and implement it.
Future Transport Tasmania (FTT) firmly believes that Tasmania’s economy must have a strong infrastructure base in order to cope with any future expansion and minimize current energy waste and other environmental impacts. For the last forty years or more, there has been a massively disproportionate level of funding allocated to roads in comparison to railways, by State and Federal Governments. Railways are not only cheaper to maintain, but rail is twenty times safer than road, as well as around three times more energy efficient.
Future transport infrastructure spending should be altered to give rail priority, to get heavy freight off the roads. If there are further delays in upgrading this vital element of the state’s economic infrastructure, it will cost the state exponentially more in years to come.
The plan includes:
- The Tasmanian railway system to be run as a Government Business Enterprise, similar to TT Line and Metro Tasmania.
- New locomotives ordered immediately.
- New rolling-stock constructed.
- A deviation constructed to straighten the main line.
- Currently closed lines reopened or rebuilt.
- The eventual reintroduction of passenger services including suburban services.
FTT believes that Tasmania needs a modern railway system. The infrastructure and investment required is extensive. However, it will still be much cheaper than constructing a four lane highway from Hobart to Launceston, and certainly much cheaper to maintain. By removing heavy freight vehicles from the roads, the government will then save further maintenance money, not to mention improve road safety. If Governments are prepared to spend taxpayer’s money on a transport system, then FTT believes that system should be controlled by the Government. An increase in rail services will also mean an increase in jobs in the rail industry, not to mention the jobs that will be created for the upgrading of the lines.
Upgraded, the railway network will be a reliable and active assistant in Tasmania’s further economic development.
The full document can be downloaded from here: http://vanpraag.info/cotu/
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Government makes acutely disappointing decision to increase fares
Community public transport group Future Transport Tasmania (FTT) today condemned the State Government’s decision to increase fares for Metro Tasmania.
FTT’s position on Metro bus fares continues to be that there should not be any fare increases, but that the State Government should instead be working on ways to increase patronage, not the cost of the tickets. The recently released Department of Infrastructure, Energy and Resources Draft Southern Integrated Transport Plan makes no significant suggestion of increasing bus services but simply hopes that increased patronage will occur. The Plan does include a strategy to ‘Encourage and support greater use of public passenger transport’, but does not actually mention any increase in bus services.
It appears the State Government has also failed to identify that reducing travel times and travel congestion, requires promotion and easy availability of alternative public transport options. Whilst a small amount of bike lanes have recently been created, for most people the only alternative form of transport is a bus, yet we have recently seen a reduction in total services on the Eastern shore.
Future Transport Tasmania Spokesperson, Toby Rowallan, said; ‘Once again public transport is losing out. The State Government wants to recover costs. We maintain that this should not be the primary concern. We need a plan to increase patronage, with increased services and much better promotion and advertising of the benefits of public transport, in particular the savings that people can make.’
‘Increasing fares is only going to discourage current users, but it will certainly not encourage new users. Therefore whilst they may well recover more of the costs, there is a significant possibility that with a decline in passenger numbers, Metro Tasmania will in real terms actually lose more money. We do note that there will be no increase in the cost of concession cards, and we fully support that, however this should be about getting more people on buses, and in that regard the Government’s policy is a failure.’
‘We are greatly concerned that the State Government’s priority appears to be revenue and not people. With no additional use of public transport there will inevitably be an increase in traffic congestion, with all the consequences that brings, including pollution in particular. If we had increased frequency and scope of bus services it would be the other way around,’ finished Mr Rowallan.
Friday, July 3, 2009
Other submissions to the investigation can be found here:
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Agreement complete – rejuvenation of railways must begin now
Future Transport Tasmania today welcomed Infrastructure Minister Graeme Sturges announcement that a sale process had been agreed to between Pacific National Tasmania and the Tasmanian Government. The long running saga of Pacific National’s clear unwillingness to operate a train service in Tasmania is now finally at an end. Now the work of rejuvenating Tasmania’s railways begins. To that end, Future Transport Tasmania (FTT) is committed to campaign for Tasmania’s railways to remain in State Government hands for the long term.
FTT wants Tasmania’s railways to remain in public hands because only under State Government ownership is it possible for the railways to have a certain future. FTT will also be campaigning for passenger trains to return in one form or another, which would be much more difficult to achieve if a private operator was running trains.
FTT strongly believes that attempting to find a private company or consortium to operate trains in Tasmania will not ensure a secure future for the railways. Considerable investment, probably around one hundred million dollars, is required to bring Tasrail’s locomotive and rolling-stock fleet up to a competitive standard. FTT is convinced that no private company or consortium would be willing to invest the money needed to achieve this.
Future Transport Tasmania Spokesperson, Toby Rowallan said; ‘Throughout the rest of Australia, and in certain cases internationally, but most particularly here in Tasmania, we have seen that privatisation is fraught with danger. If the State and Federal Government’s fund the investment that is required, which we strongly believe they should, it would be a significant financial risk to then sell the trains back to a private operator. We are sure that after years of putting up with an inadequate railway system Tasmanians would not like to see their taxpayer’s dollars used to help out a private operator any more.’
‘The State Government must now find the money to buy PNT, and the money needed to buy new locomotives. Our suggestion is that the Brighton Hub and the Brighton Bypass could be delayed, and funding re-directed from those projects to fund the far more urgent renewal of our railways. Alternatively money redirected from the superannuation fund could be a possibility.’
‘We note recent concerns raised by the RACT regarding the deteriorating state of the Midland Highway and consequent maintenance requirements. It is clear that this deterioration is due to increased heavy vehicle use of the highway with the recent period of closure of the north-south railway line. Suggestions were made that a four-lane highway would alleviate this problem –we completely disagree. A four lane highway would increase already skyrocketing highway maintenance costs, not to mention be extremely expensive in the first place, and encourage further heavy vehicle use, instead of discourage it. We want to see a government committed to creating a competitive rail network, and restricting heavy vehicle use. They will then save on road maintenance costs, save lives and improve Tasmania’s overall economic efficiency.’ finished Mr Rowallan.
Future options become much easier without cars in North Hobart
Future Transport Tasmania strongly endorses Hobart City Council Alderman Helen Burnet’s motion to have a trial car-free zone in the North Hobart commercial district.
In February this year, world-renowned architect and urban planner Professor Jan Gehl visited Hobart and delivered a detailed seminar outlining the benefits of closing streets to cars and opening them up to pedestrians. Hobart’s own Salamanca Place is a perfect example of how much more popular a large area of open space can be when the cars are excluded. FTT is encouraged by these ideas and hopes to see more progress towards a people and public transport friendly city, rather than a car focussed city. The group wants Hobart to have more streets opened to pedestrians to ensure that people can enjoy these areas. Ald Burnet has suggested that the trial look at “leave the car at home options, consistent with the Council’s alternative transport strategies".
During the car-free zone trial FTT would like to see Metro introduce shuttle bus services from the city to get more people to North Hobart. At a time when the Government is considering increasing bus fares, FTT would prefer to see more bus services and more advertising, promoting their benefits, rather than discouraging people from using Metro buses.
Future Transport Tasmania Spokesperson, Toby Rowallan said; ‘Many cities around the world and also in Australia are working on creating larger areas of open public space. It is encouraging to see this concept being considered for Hobart. Every Saturday, Salamanca Place is a shining example of what can be done. Future Transport Tasmania is of the view that Salamanca Place would be better if it were permanently open to people only, certainly the section between Montpelier Retreat and the Silos.
‘Hobart City Council’s considerable effort to make the North Hobart shopping strip unique and enjoyable could be argued as the reason the area has become so popular. FTT believes that this trial proposed by Ald Burnet for February will connect people with this special part of our city.’
‘FTT will also promote the consideration of light rail along Elizabeth Street. If the trial is successful this would be by far the best means of getting large numbers of people from the City centre to North Hobart, and other areas.’
‘Well done to Ald Burnet for bringing this type of vision of wanting to encourage people into spaces to enjoy, not just drive through,’ finished Mr Rowallan.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Tasmania’s main line from Hobart to Launceston was originally constructed by a private company, owned by investors in London. In an ironic twist of repeating history the Tasmanian Main Line Railway Company was purchased by the Tasmanian Government after a string of derailments and complaints.
The Tasmanian Government Railways constructed many branchlines including lines from Bellerive to Sorell (isolated from the rest of the network), Bridgewater to Kallista (near Maydena), Conara to St Marys, Launceston to Herrick, Burnie to Smithton and also a link from Zeehan to Strahan, amongst many others.
The TGR ran at a loss for its entire existence.
The last line constructed by the TGR was from Launceston to Bell Bay near George Town, completed in 1974.
The TGR was sold to the Federal Government after an offer made by the then Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, who wanted to bring the entire national railway network under the control of one body, the Australian National Railways. However, only South Australia and Tasmania accepted the offer.
Ownership of the TGR passed to the Federal Government in 1975, however operational control did not take place until 1978. TGR became part of the Australian National Railways Commission, and was later renamed Tasrail.
The last new locomotive purchased for Tasmania was ordered by the TGR, and arrived in 1976. No new locomotives have been purchased by any operator or owner of the railways since.
Many second-hand or rebuilt locomotives have been purchased or transferred from elsewhere, including 81 locomotives (at different times) by Australian National, and 17 by Australian Transport Network.
Few of the 81 introduced by AN remain in service, and some never entered service at all, but were used for spare parts.
The National Rail Corporation was created in 1992 to operate the interstate rail lines on the mainland. Its creation severely dented AN’s profits and after the Howard Government took power in 1996 Australian National was sold. Australian Transport Network, a company largely owned by the Wisconsin Central Railroad of the USA, purchased the Tasrail portion of AN.
Shortly after this, ATN purchased the Emu Bay Railway from Pasminco Metals.
Under ATN, Tasrail made a profit for the first time in the history of the Tasmanian Railway system. It could be argued that this was due to the profits from the Emu Bay mineral haulage.
After Wisconsin Central was purchased by the Canadian National Rail company, investment in Tasrail stopped. ATN was then purchased by Pacific National (the current owner) in 2004.
In 2008 ownership of the track passed back to the Tasmanian Government, with the exception of the former Emu Bay line (now referred to as the Melba line), which had never been government owned.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
TIME TO FIX RAILWAY CRISIS
No trains in Tasmania is not an option
With today’s announcement by Pacific National that it is halting rail operations on June 30th, Future Transport Tasmania (FTT) said that it is time for the State Government to finally address the issue of Tasmania’s railway crisis and take decisive action.
FTT strongly believes that not having an operational rail freight service in Tasmania is simply not an option. If the railway is ends up being closed, the Tasmanian public will be left with the pressure and cost that additional truck movements will place on the road network.
Future Transport Tasmania Spokesperson, Toby Rowallan said: ‘The Tasmanian rail system has lurched from crisis to crisis in the past few years and this is will either be the death of the railways altogether or the moment in which they are reborn. But that rebirth can only come about from the actions of the Tasmanian Government, who now has to take over the rail operations and ensure that the trains keep running.’
‘Yes, it will cost money to buy new trains and keep operations running, but the cost of not doing anything will be much more. Heavy trucks cause exponentially far more damage to the road surface than cars. More trucks inevitably will mean a greater risk of them being involved in serious road crashes, and the tragic consequences that may result. Whilst there have been many derailments on the railways in recent times, no one has been killed and no member of the public has been at risk, for obvious reasons. Without the rail system the government will be forced to spend even more on road maintenance, which Tasmania certainly cannot afford.’
‘It is immaterial whether or not the Minister, Graeme Sturges, is correct in saying that Pacific National is playing games. Ever since Pacific National purchased Tasrail we have seen them put nothing but ultimatum after ultimatum to the State Government. This is the State Government’s chance to resolve our rail problem and be finally rid of this company that, for whatever reason, it seems to have had so much trouble dealing with.’
‘We are certain that there are a number of viable and practical solutions to this issue. These solutions may involve the State Government creating a new Government Business Enterprise, which it later sells, after taking the necessary action to reverse the loss of freight traffic,’ added Mr Rowallan.
Future Transport Tasmania wants to see a fully upgraded rail network with new locomotives and rolling stock purchased as soon as possible. Other improvements essential to a viable rail network include a realignment of the tight and twisting section of main line between Tea Tree and Rhyndaston. Further improvements should be planned for a re-build of the rail line to Smithton, and re-opening of the rail line to Scottsdale.
Future Transport Tasmania is planning to launch a public campaign to Save Tassie’s Rail very shortly.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
SURVIVAL OF RAIL STILL HANGS IN THE BALANCE
Thursday’s State Budget must include a plan for rail
Community transport lobby group Future Transport Tasmania (FTT), stated today that the upcoming State budget desperately needs to have a plan for the continuation of rail services in Tasmania. FTT believes that for Tasmania’s future economic prosperity to have a serious chance, a viable rail service is a vital and fundamental requirement. Unfortunately the significant amount of uncertainty over operator Pacific National Tasmania’s future is having an extremely detrimental effect on rail’s chances in Tasmania.
Early this year when Asciano announced that it had been unsuccessful in finding a buyer for Pacific National Tasmania (PNT) the State Government said that it would begin talks with Asciano, the owner of PNT, yet stated that taking over the operation was a ‘last resort’.
FTT believes that it is completely against the public’s interest for this hesitation and uncertainty to continue, and affirms that the State Budget is the best place to start.
In a submission to the National Transport Commission Dr Philip Laird from the University Of Wollongong noted that; ‘about one fatality in ten involves an articulated truck’. For this reason alone it is obvious that rail should receive priority, yet out of the $800 million of Federal Government infrastructure funding for Tasmania announced in April, only $200 million of that is for rail. Many other studies and reports exist to justify prioritisation of rail infrastructure development, yet in Tasmania (and Australia) the highways are still receiving far more than the lion’s share of money.
Future Transport Tasmania spokesperson Toby Rowallan said: ‘There is no doubt that we are still in the midst of a rail crisis. The north-south line has still not reopened, and Pacific National has made it quite clear that it wants out. We need to know what the Government’s plan is. If they will not take over the operations of Pacific National, then who are they hoping to get to run the trains?’
‘The State and Federal Governments have committed over $200 million dollars to upgrade the rail network –but this is for the track, not the trains or services. There is still no guarantee that there will be anyone operating trains in Tasmania next year.'
‘Already the effects of the north-south line closure (caused by a derailment) may be extremely difficult to redress. Intermodal freight users currently have no choice but to use trucks, and when the line is finally re-opened, it will be understandable if their confidence and business is correspondingly slow to return,’ added Mr Rowallan.
‘Thursday’s State Budget must have a plan and a strong commitment from the Government to ensure our rail network operates. It must be aimed at taking heavy trucks off our roads and thereby increasing the use of rail. This will improve road safety, decrease road maintenance costs, improve overall economic efficiency and also decrease carbon emissions. It is true that this will cost the state money and there is little to spare. However we firmly believe it will cost Tasmania far more in the long run, if we do not invest in our rail network now,’ finished Mr Rowallan.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Community lobby group Future Transport Tasmania today called on the State Government to ensure certainty for the future of rail transport in Tasmania, after a derailment occurred near Colebrook last Friday, causing the closure of the main line for at least four weeks.
Future Transport Tasmania (FTT) said that the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, (TCCI) is quite correct that Tasmania's rail network is 19th century and needs work. However FTT noted that the upgrade of Tasmania's rail network has already begun with over $78 million being spent on upgrading the tracks, work that is already well under way, as stated by Minister Sturges.
However FTT would like clarification of the TCCI's assertion yesterday that the State Government should not be operating the railway system. The current rail operator, Pacific National Tasmania, owned by Asciano, is clearly unwilling to spend the money needed to keep trains operating competitively. FTT is concerned that a new private operator may only send its competitors back on to the roads, when ideally there should be as much freight as possible going by rail. Under such circumstances, it is clear that the rail operator should preferably be a neutral agent and not already part or wholly owned by a freight forwarding company.
Spokesperson for Future Transport Tasmania, Toby Rowallan said: 'The current locomotive fleet owned by Pacific National Tasmania (PNT) has an average age of thirty-nine years –it is no surprise that no one was willing to buy PNT, when they would immediately have had to spend at least the same amount they had paid for the business, to buy new trains. The locomotive fleet and many of the wagons, belong in a museum or a scrap metal yard. It is no wonder that these trains cannot compete with new B-double trucks.'
'The TCCI does not want the State to run the railway. But if the only way to ensure the trains keep running is that the State take over operations, then we believe that is what should happen. Asciano failed to find a buyer. The State Government's only way out of this is to find an operator who is willing to buy new trains -because after decades of rebuilding old locomotives and eking the last bit of life out of them, this is the only way to ensure rail is as competitive with road as possible.'
Future Transport Tasmania is gravely concerned that the State Government may actually prefer to pay an operator to run the trains, as well as having to buy new ones, rather than taking on the responsibility themselves.
'If this happens we could end up paying a lot more for the privilege of having a viable railway network,' said Mr Rowallan. 'We want a rail network that takes heavy road-destroying trucks off our highways and puts their loads on to the tracks. For this the railways need a complete upgrade. The 19th century formation, built by a private company, needs straightening, and the old locomotives and wagons replaced, not rebuilt. The State Government must decide very soon how it is going to fix this problem, and ensure that its plan guarantees an improved rail system.'
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Three and a half million people take advantage of the Light Rail system to find their way around Sydney every year, and that makes a big difference to the quality of life in the city. That may sound a little extreme, but the fact is that the Light Rail is a very green way to travel.
Because the route runs through and past many of the major areas of interest in the city, there is no need to use a car to get to where you need to be. That means there are far less cars polluting the roads than there would be otherwise. The Light Rail is also very quiet – unlike the rumbling noise of all the cars, buses and other vehicles that some people do still use.