To have built a concept for the operation of a new Australian rail alignment, one that includes promises for outcome scheduling, capacity, and achieved transit performance, without having a precise concept developed for the required terminal operations, is not credible.
We, like others we will cite as having done so before, hope to draw attention both to the importance of terminals, and the urgent need for a conceptual operating framework for the greater whole of the Melbourne-Brisbane Inland Rail project.
Today we will talk mainly about terminals at the ends of this inland rail line. The avoidance of covering inland terminals is not Gilead’s intended path, but we are constricted by the ARTC study framework. They are as yet to deliver any concept for the inland terminals, those that might effectively employ the proposed rail line. We will, however, be returning to this issue as we describe our own concept later.
Below we introduce a study in respect of adapting to changed market circumstances done for a terminal from well over 40 years ago. Readers may choose just to note the relevant quote we extracted below, or take a little more time and explore the relative qualitative difference (the meat) in the study from that time, with that of the studies we have referenced for the contemporary Inland Rail Project.
Development of a Rail Freight Terminal at Acacia Ridge
It is becoming increasingly apparent that terminal facilities are a key to the efficient operation of the Australian railway system. Advances in equipment and techniques for loading, unloading and transhipping have been so great that, in a modern terminal, these operations bear little resemblance to those of twenty or thirty years ago.
(Bureau of Transport Economics Report Feb, 1974)
Returning to the narrower issue of the terminal concept for the Melbourne-Brisbane Inland Rail Alignment we confirm that there hardly is one, as admitted here
Participants at the Stakeholder Reference Group Forum held in Sydney in October 2014 also highlighted the need for flexibility, for interoperability and to clearly state the target for reliability. They also highlighted the importance of terminals. This feedback is reflected in the current service offering, with clear potential for faster and slower services to meet customer needs (while preserving the core offering of a 24 hour transit time from Melbourne to Brisbane), a clearly specified reliability target of 98 percent and clarity around the commitment to interoperability with connections to the New South Wales country rail network and Queensland narrow gauge network
(Inland Rail Service Offering March 2016)
After a further period 18 months from October 2014 to March 2016, the best ARTC could muster in respect of terminal proposals was this:
“ARTC will continue to work with terminal operators and proponents as it progresses Inland Rail.”
Upon interrogation of the ARTC website we cannot witness any address of this critical issue since the March 2016 comment.
Nor do we hear anything of the conceived connection operations to NSW country rail, or to QLD narrow gauge networks; and neither any address for the majority slower services pathways and their transit time expectations on the new $10B north-south corridor project.
As a total solution, we already discovered that transit time projections were admitted as ill-conceived on the project. The new -24hour transit target from terminal-to-terminal remains unsupported by publicly released comprehensive data delivered within an ARTC study. Meanwhile there has been an inordinate amount of attention given to high level so-called fact sheets, and various Youtube media promotions, some of them disseminated by councils.
ARTC has from the outset felt emboldened to pronounce the style and distribution of freight to run on their projected “Superfreighters”. However, the issue of facilitating the product to be offered to their core nominated express trucking freight constituency (second day AM delivery between the capitals of Melbourne and Brisbane) is not settled in terms of feasibility given the publicly released information we have read to date.
It could well prove that express freight on the Melbourne-Brisbane alignment will be unable to be double-stacked, and hence ARTC's model train data projection needs to be continuously subject to scrutiny as a real terminal operating plan evolves. Moreover, it could prove that separate equipment, and even terminals, are required to serve this 2nd day AM delivered market at one, or both, ends of the line.
We are going to continue to explore terminal issues further as we address the subjects of competition and access in our concluding two posts in this series. In doing so, we are going to start untangling some operational & strategic concepts that, in Australia in particular, had not evolved sufficiently after the monopolist rail operators’ vertically integrated services were proved inefficient and subsequently dissolved.
So next time, besides speaking of competition policy in general, we will be returning to today’s subject of terminals. We will take up the idea of exploring where we may be able to completely dis-aggregate marshaling/manifesting operations from intermodal terminal operations. If we can deliver this in selected strategic inland locations, it should serve in the building of more competitive rail-based transportation service offers & solutions.