Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee
Estimates hearings, 23 May 2012
Australian Rail Track Corporation
- Mr Mike Mrdak, Secretary, Department of Infrastructure and Transport
- Mr John Fullerton, Chief Executive Officer, Australian Rail Track Corporation
Senator RHIANNON: Thank you very much, Senator Joyce. Thank you, Mr Chair. I was interested in ARTC operations in the Hunter. I read that the federal government gave ARTC an equity injection of $2.37 billion in 2008-09 to be spent over six years. How much of that money has been spent and what actually is an equity injection, please?
Mr Fullerton: An equity injection is an investment by the shareholder into the assets of the business.
Senator RHIANNON: Is it matched in any way or is just your injection?
Mr Mrdak: Essentially, it is the government putting money into its business. It provides the capital base for the business.
Senator RHIANNON: So there is no obligation for money to come from any other source? That is what I am trying to ascertain.
Mr Mrdak: No, it is the shareholder investing in its business.
Senator RHIANNON: Could you inform us where your operations in the Upper Hunter are up to with respect to the Liverpool Ranges?
Mr Fullerton: Over the last five years, ARTC has invested about $600 million or $700 million in the Hunter Valley for upgrading works to allow an increase in the volume of coal.
Senator RHIANNON: Is all that money for the movement of coal?
Mr Fullerton: That is right, in four zones: the Lower Hunter, the Ulan line, the line between Maitland and Muswellbrook and then the line in the Gunnedah Basin.
Senator RHIANNON: Is that the Minimbah to Maitland? Is that the one you are referring to?
Mr Fullerton: The Minimbah to Maitland is a section of track that we are triplicating to provide more capacity.
Senator RHIANNON: So that is only part of the Maitland operation?
Mr Fullerton: If we ignore the requirements for the fourth terminal in Newcastle, to complete the initial program of works, there is about another I think $400 million or $500 million to be spent on works to allow the coal chain to grow from 140 million tonnes per annum which it can currently deliver to just over 200 million tonnes per annum. But because the fourth terminal has been triggered, we are now working with the coal producers on what further investments are necessary to handle that increased volume of coal.
Senator RHIANNON: Would that further investment be on top of the $400 million to $500 million?
Mr Fullerton: Yes, it will be. That investment is about $3.5 billion.
Senator RHIANNON: That is on top of what?
Mr Fullerton: Of the current investment program.
Senator RHIANNON: Over what period, please?
Mr Fullerton: That is over a period of about five years to deliver the volumes. Again, that will depend upon timing of mines coming onstream but that is what our expectation is at this stage in discussing it with our coal producers.
Senator RHIANNON: Is the $3.5 billion just for the rail lines or will some of that be allocated to T4 itself?
Mr Fullerton: That is just for the rail line.
Senator RHIANNON: Just for the rail?
Mr Fullerton: Yes, the fourth terminal is a separate investment altogether.
Senator RHIANNON: I heard you say in response to one of Senator Joyce’s questions that the ARTC is not involved in Moorebank. Considering that in much of the project material that comes out of the minister’s office they talk about 3,300 trucks taken off the road and the creation of more freight on rail, I was interested in understanding ARTC’s involvement. I imagine at some point you are interacting with what is going on at Moorebank, so could you explain that, please.
Mr Fullerton: Yes, we are. I think there are two parts of that interaction. The first thing is that we are currently finalising the take-up from New South Wales of the Metropolitan Freight Network that operates between Enfield and the port. We have already taken over the Port Botany rail terminal and we have taken over a section of track between Enfield West and Sefton Park. We are currently halfway through a $176 million investment to upgrade the capacity of that corridor that will allow around 900,000 TU to be moved across the corridor into the port.
The second part of that is the southern Sydney freight line between Moorebank and Enfield, which then connects with the Metropolitan Freight Network and we are currently working with New South Wales on what capacity enhancements may be necessary on that southern Sydney freight line to handle the volumes out of Moorebank.
Senator RHIANNON: That certainly is considerable work. A number of the locals have raised the issue of air quality and are worried about being exposed to diesel particulate. Are those types of concerns something the ARTC addresses?
Mr Fullerton: In relation to the Hunter Valley we have been. We are currently conducting tests at Islington and one other location.
Senator RHIANNON: In what form are those tests?
Mr Fullerton: It is measuring emissions and air quality adjacent to the track, in terms of both fine particulates and other gases.
Senator RHIANNON: How fine? That has been quite controversial in the Hunter Valley.
Mr Fullerton: It is obviously looking at dust that could be generated when trains run past.
Senator RHIANNON: If you want to take it on notice, could you give the micron size? There have been disputes about what is being covered, so that would be useful.
Mr Fullerton: I can take that on notice. The EPA has specified what we need to be measuring, but I can bring that back.
Senator RHIANNON: At how many sites is that being done?
Mr Fullerton: Two sites.
Senator RHIANNON: Which were they again?
Mr Fullerton: Islington is one. I need to check the other site.
Senator RHIANNON: Could you take that on notice too?
Mr Fullerton: Right.
Senator RHIANNON: Coming back to around Moorebank and any of your Sydney operations, are you looking at issues there to do with emissions?
Mr Fullerton: The planning process for building a freight line along that corridor is quite long and detailed. What that has led to on that corridor, particularly where noise would present as an issue to adjacent homes, is the requirement for us to build about six kilometres of noise walls at certain locations along that 36-kilometre length of track and, in some locations, to build double-glazing on houses and supply other noise mitigation. That is all being done as part of the project and to meet planning requirements.
Senator RHIANNON: You just said on certain parts of the route. I did understand the noise barriers are not right along the route.
Mr Fullerton: No. The assessment is that, where the noise is a certain amount above the current noise level, there is a requirement to build a noise barrier. It is around a 5½-dBA increase above the current noise level that obviously is generated by passenger trains running on the corridor. Where a dedicated freight line has lifted that threshold by that amount, we have a requirement to build—and have done—the six-kilometre noise walls.
Senator RHIANNON: How do you judge that it is above a certain amount? When are the measurements being taken? Clearly the noise varies at different times.
Mr Fullerton: I would need to come back with the detail about how that is measured, if I could.
Senator RHIANNON: You can take that on notice. Can we go back to the issue of emissions. Is there any work being done on emissions in that area, anything similar to the Hunter or any other work?
Mr Fullerton: No, we are not doing any work on that.
Senator RHIANNON: Is there any reason for that?
Mr Fullerton: It has not been part of the requirements we have had to meet for the planning and construction of that corridor.
Senator RHIANNON: Is that because state government requirements have not been in place for that?
Mr Fullerton: No. Obviously, when we put forward our plans to build that, we have to seek planning permission. That planning permission can come with certain criteria. We have met those criteria and, where we have needed to take certain actions, we have.
Senator RHIANNON: That is a state government matter, I gather.
Mr Fullerton: That is right, the state government.
Senator RHIANNON: I understand the high-speed rail is quite separate from you. That is correct, isn’t it?
Mr Mrdak: High-speed rail sits with the department.
Senator RHIANNON: Your annual report notes that the ARTC’s Melbourne-Brisbane Inland Rail Alignment Study report was released in August 2010. Will it be revisited as part of the high-speed rail readability study. What I am interested in here is that you have your big project and along comes the high-speed rail, with huge benefits. Is there any discussion, interaction or sharing of information?
Mr Mrdak: Not at this point. The High Speed Rail Study is a distinct piece of work. We will discuss this with ARTC as we progress the study. Quite clearly we are talking about high-speed rail as a separate system to the current ARTC track.
Senator RHIANNON: Are there any discussions about routes or anything? Do you ever meet?
Mr Mrdak: We are working with a whole range of parties—state government and industry—about the alignment. We are at the stage now of finalising the first cut of the preferred alignment for the high-speed rail.
Senator RHIANNON: You are part of discussions about their alignment?
Mr Mrdak: In terms of high-speed rail, yes. We are talking to state governments and industry about the preferred alignment for a high-speed east coast network.
Senator RHIANNON: Thank you.