In 2018-19, we continued to improve the efficiency, reliability and performance of our rail operations and assets across the Hunter Valley network, to continue to meet our customers’ needs. We also continued to actively engage with our local communities to build stronger relationships and deliver better outcomes.
Our efforts in these areas are already delivering benefits to our customers through increased reliability, new technology and streamlined processes. This is confirmed in our latest customer survey that shows strong improvement across all aspects of customer satisfaction. With more coal being transported to the Port of Newcastle this year and more growth forecast across the Hunter region, we are confident we can keep meeting the needs of our freight and passenger customers well into the future.
Our continued safety focus is paying off, resulting in the milestone achievement of two years without a Lost Time Injury.
IMPROVING OPERATIONAL PERFORMANCE TO DELIVER MORE FOR CUSTOMERS
As in previous years, our core focus was on continuously improving our rail operations and track performance to deliver more for our customers. One of our key achievements was centralising responsibilities for planning, scheduling and coordinating train paths and track work across the network. This initiative is already producing positive results, by increasing effective time for track work without reducing our capacity to move passengers and coal.
We also introduced a high-speed ultrasonic track testing vehicle to further reduce the impact of track work on the network’s capacity, a joint investment with Sydney Trains. This vehicle can test the condition of rail much more quickly and has eliminated the need to close sections of track while testing occurs.
We worked closely with NSW TrainLink to improve the punctuality and reliability of passenger services to the north west of NSW.
We improved performance for customers operating on our single-track lines. By reducing the signal reset and overlap time for train crews and implementing targeted track/signal and signage, we improved the predictability and consistency of train running times.
We reduced train breakdown response times by increasing the involvement of rail operators and applying more consistency in the way issues are managed across the Hunter Valley.
We improved track maintenance and performance on the section of line through the Ardglen Range. By providing additional ballasting and undertaking significant track adjustments, we can ensure we meet the standards demanded by our customers on this historically problematic section.
In addition, we embedded a ‘One Team’ approach with our contractor partners, to ensure our goals are aligned and enable more effective collaboration to improve the safety, reliability and performance of the network.
PROMOTING GREATER SUPPLY CHAIN EFFICIENCY
On 1 January 2019, we introduced a simpler path-based pricing structure for our coal customers, through a variation to the Hunter Valley Access Undertaking. The new pricing structure, approved by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), promotes more efficient use of the network by encouraging customers to maximise the amount of coal they transport per train path used.
With the CSIRO, we also delivered the first report of a study into how road and rail can work together to increase the competitiveness of the agricultural supply chain in north west NSW. The report identified potential cost savings of over $60 million dollars per year from improving the coordination of freight movements and infrastructure investment, particularly for transporting cotton and grain.
INCREASING OUR EFFICIENCY AND THE COMPETITIVENESS OF RAIL
We continued to implement several initiatives to increase the efficiency of our Hunter Valley operations and boost the overall competitiveness of rail freight. The first of these initiatives is the ARTC Network Control Optimisation (ANCO) project – an innovative technology-based project that will transform the way we plan and operationally manage train paths. We rolled out the centrepiece of this project, the Movement Planner software, in the Gunnedah Basin section, making it the first section of the network on which all train paths are digitally planned. The rollout will continue across the rest of the Hunter Valley. When fully operational, ANCO will deliver real-time network and train data, allowing better management of train movements and other activities on track. The resulting improvements in network efficiency will provide huge benefits to our business and customers across the entire coal supply chain.
The second initiative is ARTC’s Asset Management Improvement Program, which aims to provide more comprehensive information about our assets so we can optimise maintenance activities. This year we put in place more effective, longer term asset maintenance planning and processes at our Provisioning Centres. This is leading to improved assurance and delivery of critical work, reducing our overheads.
We also started developing a Decision Support Platform (DSP) for asset management. Once commissioned, this platform will help our asset managers better predict what maintenance will be needed and when. We completed specification of the DSP, and our next step will be to select the vendor. In addition, we:
Implemented real-time bridge monitoring systems for six critical structures, improving safety and reliability by allowing maintenance teams to respond more efficiently.
Expanded the use of Instrumented Coal Wagons into the Muswellbrook to Ulan zone to provide improved condition monitoring of these assets.
CONTINUING OUR COMMITMENT TO SAFETY
We continued our safety focus through a number of initiatives:
Safety Days – bringing together our people across every part of our operation, were expanded to include a focus on environment and community aspects of how we work and the value of No Harm. We’ve already seen positive improvements in the frequency and quality of incident reporting and reviews.
The achievement of two years Lost Time Injury-free.
Based on the overarching Level Crossing Strategy, the development of a Hunter Valley-specific Level Crossing Strategy. Implementation is due to commence in July 2019.
ENGAGING WITH LOCAL COMMUNITIES
The movement of coal and other freight on our Hunter Valley network has impacts on local communities and the environment. We remained committed to working with our communities to ensure the best possible outcomes. This included:
Providing additional community engagement training for our front-line teams
Providing details of planned track work and contact information through our community notification newsletters
Participating in one of the world’s largest agricultural field days, AgQuip in Gunnedah
Supporting Steamfest at Maitland, by providing a live welding display and running various activities for local children
Supporting national environmental causes such as Landcare and Graffiti Removal Day.
Introduction of communication engagement through social media channels
Continuing targeted support of local community organisations.
UPGRADING OUR NETWORK
We continued to invest in upgrading the Hunter Valley network and improving the overall competitiveness of rail. Our key projects in 2018-19 included:
Gowrie Gates Bridge
We continued work on replacing the Gowrie Gates rail bridge over the New England Highway at Singleton. This joint project with NSW Roads and Maritime Services is due for completion in 2019. It will remove significant safety risks by increasing the bridge’s road width and clearance and improve the reliability for the road and rail networks.
Werris Creek Intermodal
During the year, Crawford’s Freightlines – built and began operating a new intermodal hub on our property and sidings at Werris Creek in north west NSW. This has already led to a significant increase in the number of freight containers transported from the region to Port Botany by rail – and reduced truck movements between Tamworth and Newcastle by around 70 per day.
Newcastle Port Precinct
By taking back control of port sidings, we increased operational flexibility within the Newcastle Port Precinct. In conjunction with the NSW Government Fixing Country Rail program, the use of these sidings will allow the use of longer, heavier payload trains as well as reducing overall cycle times for the benefit of all users of our network.
Newcastle Agri Terminal
We implemented new outloading capability for grain transfer from ship to train at Newcastle Agri Terminal (NAT), which assisted in providing feed grain to drought affected areas of NSW.
Rail Grinding Services contract
ARTC signed a 12-year deal for plain track rail grinding services with Aurizon, which will enable us to deliver greater customer benefits. A new 120 Stone Loram grinder is being built which will be the largest in Australia and one of the highest production rail grinders in the Southern Hemisphere.
$108 million capital investment in the Hunter Valley network 2018-19
233 trains per day operating across our Hunter Valley network
175 million total coal tonnes transported on the Hunter Valley network
161 million coal tonnes transported to the Port of Newcastle (export)