Monday, March 29, 2010

Asciano secures $150m rail contract

Freight deals point to a lively economy and a number of projects are coming to fruition in WA. This is one of the reasons that AusRAIL 2010 is heading to Perth this year.

Ports and rail operator Asciano has won a $150m rail deal to haul freight over the next seven years for Sadleirs Transport.

Asicano’s Pacific National division will transport rail vans for Sadleirs between Melbourne and Perth, adding to a similar service it provides for the freight forwarding company between Sydney and Perth.

Under the deal, Pacific National will provide interstate rail haulage for all Sadleirs services to 2017.

Asciano said the emergence of positive trends in volumes signalled that the worst of the global economic crunch was over.

Sadleirs managing director Ian Cook said the his firm believed rail would increase its market share over the other freight transport modes.

"Sadleirs is entering a new growth phase with redevelopment of its Kewdale, WA, rail freight terminal and the construction of a new rail freight terminal in Spotswood, Victoria, both due for completion later this year," Mr Cook said.

The article above is taken from Lloyd's List DCN. Direct link to the article here.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Industry bid for QR a stunt: Fraser

A fierce debate over the future of Queensland's bulk haulage tracks has intensified at the weekend with the state's treasurer, Andrew Fraser, accusing the coal industry of undermining the controversial infrastructure sell-off.

As the coal industry today prepared to meet with union representatives on details of the plan to privatise parts of QR, there were also reports that mining companies were preparing to table a bid that would trump the $3bn figure the Queensland Government had expected earn from the sale.

But Mr Fraser accused mining giants of pretending to be united so as to thwart efforts to sell the below and above-rail assets.

Mr Fraser told the Australian Financial Review that coal producers had no intention of seriously competing for QR's below-rail assets, rejecting calls for the state government to show the rail group's financial statements ahead of a bid.

The mining companies have rejected fiercely the state government plan for the QR business to be vertically-integrated, proposing instead that the below-rail business be sold separately.

Former New South Wales premier Nick Greiner is acting on behalf of a consortium of the state's 14 top coal producers ahead of an initial public offering expected in October or November.

The consortium wrote to Queensland premier Anna Bligh last week requesting a meeting and urging industry engagement.

Direct link to the article here.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Rail tops industry confidence meter: survey

The rail sector has emerged as the most optimistic about its sustainability in 2010, although there are signs some global transport companies have seen light at the end of the metaphorical tunnel.
Rail tops industry confidence meter: survey

Recession-resistant: Rail seen as an appropriate target for investment

A study commissioned by global legal firm Norton Rose found that 68% of those surveyed from the rail sector expected an upturn in business over the next 12 months.

Aviation was the most pessimistic with almost half of the respondents from that sector not expecting a turnaround for another two to three years.

More than three-quarters of those surveyed from shipping expected consolidation in the sector.

While the data was gathered late last year, the predictions of consolidations or collapses within shipping might not be far from the mark, Harry Theochari, the head of transport at Norton Rose, said.

While banks had typically been patient with debt-heavy companies since global markets fell in 2008, the future of some remained uncertain.

"In the next few weeks, other things will become apparent," Mr Theochari told Lloyd’s List DCN during a visit to Sydney.

"Problems will emerge in several very large, well-established organisations which are simply running out of money."

Mr Theochari said passenger transport appeared to be a major factor in the rail industry’s comparatively optimistic view of for the year, given commuters were actually more likely to catch public transport in a recession than in buoyant times.

However, the need for more rail freight infrastructure – an issue Australia was presently grappling with – appeared a global trend that many governments were now supporting.

“Rail was the most optimistic – it’s the only mode where people said that now was a good time to invest,” Mr Theochari said.

"On the other side of the coin is the airline industry – they really need a good dose of valium.

"Most people were hugely depressed."

Nevertheless, Mr Theochari said that "everyone saw light at the end of the tunnel".

The research data – from a survey of 961 individuals across aviation, rail and shipping – found that 80% saw the rail industry as the most insulated from global economic turmoil.

Almost 80% did not expect available bank debt to return to pre-crisis levels within three years.

State intervention for struggling sectors of the transport industry would best be made in the form of new infrastructure as opposed to bailing out individual operators, the survey found.

Direct link to article here.

Industry boss hits back

A MINING industry leader has hit back at Member for Rockhampton Robert Schwarten’s claim coal companies have been “bludging off taxpayers”.

Queensland Resources Council boss Michael Roche said the government had reaped billions of dollars in royalties from mining companies, which were clearly paying their way.

Mr Roche said Mr Schwarten’s comment and a similar swipe from Premier Anna Bligh that taxpayers were subsidising the transport arrangements of the coal companies came from a government under pressure.

However an unapologetic Mr Schwarten yesterday stood by his comment and slammed Mr Roche for saying Central Queensland communities weren’t getting their share of the wealth.

“I find it remarkable that after 11 years in power, the State Government is conceding that it has effectively misled the electorate,” Mr Roche said.

“In the Parliament and in the media, both the Premier and Deputy Premier have in the recent past made it clear that that the coal industry pays for all infrastructures built on its behalf by government-owned corporations.

“These subsidy claims represent an extraordinary reaction to a request from the coal industry for the government to examine an alternative offer to buy the Central Queensland coal track network.

“Surely it is in the interests of Queensland taxpayers to have on the table an alternative offer from the coal industry, which may not only produce an attractive short-term return to the state but also deliver a superior long-term result in improving the performance of the export supply chain.

“The dividend for taxpayers from an efficient export supply chain is more coal royalties funding more hospital beds, more teachers and more police.”

Mr Schwarten, who made his bludging comment on the 4RO radio station, said the money to fund rail infrastructure to support the mines had been borrowed on the taxpayers’ account.

“The coal industry was established in Queensland around the rail industry,” Mr Schwarten said.

“The coal industry has not borrowed this money, it has been on our account.

“Every dollar that goes towards this is another dollar the government has to borrow for rail infrastructure and not money that could be going to schools and so on.”

He said with the government losing its triple-A credit rating its interest rate repayment had increased, furthering the burden on the taxpayer.

Mr Schwarten said of the $1.5 billion total royalties paid this financial year, infrastructure spending in the Fitzroy region was $2.6 billion.

“That’s before one teacher, one nurse or one disability service worker is paid in the region,” he said.

Direct link to article here.

China to build high-speed rail link to Europe

THE journey from London to Beijing by rail could take just two days under a Chinese plan to build an international network for trains that can travel almost as fast as aircraft.

Three networks are planned, with the Britain to China route to be extended to Singapore, and built within a decade.

Passengers on a second route would travel to the north of China and through Russia and on to Germany, where the network would join the European railway system.

A third network would extend south through Vietnam, Thailand, Burma and Malaysia, the London newspaper The Daily Telegraph reports. The trains are expected to travel at more than 320 km/h.

''We are aiming for the trains to run almost as fast as aeroplanes,'' a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering said.

Last year China unveiled the world's fastest train, the Harmony Express, which can reach 350 km/h.

High-speed rail networks exist in Japan and Europe, but not in Australia.

The chief executive of the research group CRC for Rail Innovation, David George, said high-speed rail was a well-established technology and it was time Australia had an in-depth look at using it.

The chief executive of the Australasian Railway Association, Bryan Nye, said Australia already had the market for Asian-style high-speed rail, especially in the Melbourne-Sydney-Brisbane corridor. He said China recently tested a train at 380 km/h and had made a 1000-kilometre journey in two hours 50 minutes.

''If we could get a Sydney-Melbourne trip to three hours, or just under, it would be worthwhile and competitive,'' he said.

David George agreed. ''By the time you've gone to the airport and struggled through the traffic, booked in advance and then sat around, a three-hour journey between Sydney and Melbourne or Sydney and Brisbane starts to look very attractive.''

He said high-speed rail was not just a technology for First World countries.

''Poland, Saudi Arabia, Morocco are seriously looking at, or introducing high-speed rail.''

Australia needed to build extra rail capacity, he said.

''[Our] urban rail networks and many of [our] freight networks need extra capacity.''

A high-speed rail system could be ''transformational'' in terms of its impact, he said.

Direct link to article here.