Railway Freight Traffic
in New South Wales in 2005
Editor, Railway Digest
Rail-hauled freight traffic in NSW
consists of two distinct groups of
‘Rocks and seeds’
• Quarry products
Rocks and Seeds
Commodities wrested from the earth in either
vegetable or mineral form are the basis for
rail freight traffic in NSW. The main ‘rocks
and seeds’ hauled by rail are:
Quarry products (ballast, limestone)
• Coal is the largest commodity moved by
rail in Australia each year.
• In 2003/2004, 226 million tonnes of coal
was moved by rail around Australia.
• While Queensland accounts for some 143
million tonnes of this total, NSW moves
almost all of the remaining tonnage.
Coal - where does it come from?
Extensive coal measures lie underneath the
areas surrounding Wollongong, Sydney and
Newcastle. The three main coal measures
mined commercially are:
• Hunter Valley/Northern
Railing coal to Newcastle
• The Hunter Valley/Northern coal system is
now focused on the export terminals in
Newcastle (Kooragang Island/Port
• Newcastle has been a centre for the rail
movement of coal since the 1830s.
• Newcastle is now the 8th largest coal
exporting port in the world, shipping over
80 million tonnes of coal in 2003/2004.
Railing coal to Newcastle
• The Hunter Valley coal traffic is the profit
centre of the railways in NSW and this
revenue value is reflected by infrastructure
investment to handle coal traffic.
• Future investment under ARTC will
increase rail’s capacity to handle the
demands of Northern coal traffic.
• The Newcastle coal network is set for expansion
in the next decade. Capacity enhancements and
new production will see coal exports top 115
million tonnes by 2008.
• Capacity enhancements include:
– Grade separated overpass for coal trains at Sandgate;
– Resignalling, track remodelling and duplication
between Muswellbrook and Maitland.
• Coal loaders are located near the mineable
coal measures north, south and west of
North Coast/Northern Tablelands
• South of Newcastle, coal is loaded from
Newstan (near Fassifern) and Teralba
• One major non-export user of rail-hauled
coal in this region is the Eraring power
station near Lake Macquarie.
• The South Maitland coalfields are a shadow
of their former prominence, with only one
rail-served colliery remaining on the field,
• The only other rail-served colliery on the
South Maitland field (Southland) closed
indefinitely in 2004 after a fire.
• The centre of the Hunter Valley coalfields lies
between Maitland and Muswellbrook, with 12
rail-served coal loaders feeding into Port Waratah
and Kooragang Island terminals. A further five
coal loaders are located further afield, as far north
as Gunnedah and west to Ulan.
• Pacific National has dominated Hunter Valley coal
traffic since its inception in 2002. Competition to
PN’s monopoly is now underway.
• A limited amount of coal is mined on the lower
North Coast, with two coal loaders at Duralie and
Stratford (between Dungog and Gloucester) also
adding to the tonnage entering Newcastle.
• These trains are hauled by QR National (formerly
Interail), who are challenging Pacific National’s
dominance on the Northern coal system. QR
National is taking delivery of new, high-capacity
coal wagons and heavy haul locomotives to
• Expansion of coal production in the Hunter
Valley is due to take place in the next few
years with two new mines coming on
stream at Jerry’s Plains and Werris Creek.
• Both new mines will send their coal to
market by rail, thus adding to the tonnage
travelling down the Main North to
• The Western coal fields are now located
mostly to the west of Lithgow, with major
rail-served coal loaders at Baal Bone and
Charbon on the Mudgee line and also the
Clarence colliery in the Blue Mountains.
• Western coal travels by rail to Port Kembla
for export via the Sydney and the Illawarra
using Pacific National trains.
• In recent years, the Main South has seen the
amount of coal sent by rail drop. In 2005, only one
colliery sends coal by rail on the Main South, this
being Tahmoor colliery.
• Tahmoor coal trains travel to Port Kembla via the
Moss Vale - Unanderra line utilising the unusual
(for NSW) practice of distributed power, with
Pacific National 82 class units ‘topping and
tailing’ the train.
• Illawarra coal trains work out of coal
loaders near the mines located along the
Illawarra escarpment, north and south of
• Illawarra coal hauled by rail is mostly
exported, although some trains supply the
BlueScope Steel plant at Port Kembla.
• North of Wollongong, coal loaders serve
– Metropolitan colliery, and;
– Coal Cliff (Clifton) colliery
• These collieries rail their production to Port
Kembla for export.
• South of Wollongong, BlueScope Steel maintains
two mines to supply their Port Kembla mill with
– Elouera, and
• Both mines are located on private lines that were
owned and operated by BHP. In 2003, Pacific
National took over coal haulage duties for
• Grain is another important commodity to
the railways in NSW. Unlike coal however,
grain is a seasonal traffic.
• The grain railways of NSW have two
distinct tasks to fulfill:
– Railing grain to ports for export, and;
– Railing grain to domestic processors.
• The grain growers of NSW are served by a
network of silos and receiving points on the
main and branch lines of the state.
• The trend to consolidate grain on rail at
large main line receiving points, thus
making the existence of many lightly laid
and poorly maintained grain only branch
lines uncertain at best.
• NSW has two grain export terminals, at
Bullock Island (Newcastle) and Port
Kembla (Wollongong). These facilities
were provided in the 1970s and 1980s to
decentralise grain exports out of Sydney.
• A third export grain site can be accessed by
growers in southern NSW, namely
Melbourne’s Appleton Dock terminal.
• Domestic users of grain take grain by rail to
their mills for processing into flour,
starches, malt and other products.
• The major domestic grain user in NSW is
the Manildra Group, who use rail to
transport grain to mills around NSW and
also to move the finished product to market.
• ARG won the Manildra Group haulage
contract in 2003 off Pacific National.
• ARG runs trains from country grain silos to
Manildra Group plants at:
– Manildra (near Parkes);
• Flour from these mills is also sent by rail for
further processing to Manildra Group’s
Bomaderry (Nowra) mill.
• ARG also operate trains carrying export flour and
starch products from Manildra Group plants to
Port Botany for export.
• Examples of some domestic grain
processors using rail include:
Ingham Poultry at Sandgate (Newcastle)
Nestle Purina (Friskies) at Blayney
Weston Milling at Enfield (Sydney)
Goodman Fielder at Summer Hill (Sydney)
• These plants produce flour, stock feed and
• Other domestic grain users include:
– Kellogg’s at Botany
– Cargills Australia at Kooragang Island (Newcastle)
– Joe White Maltings in Tamworth
• These plants use non-wheat grains (rice,
canola/soy beans and barley respectively) to
produce breakfast cereals, cooking oils, starches
• Mineral traffic is another major user of rail
transport in moving a variety of minerals
from mines to smelters or ports.
• The main mineral traffic in NSW is as
• Cobar – copper and zinc. Rails its output in
containers from Cobar for smelting in
Hobart (Tas), Newcastle and Port Pirie (SA)
• Cadia – copper and gold. Rails its output in
containers from Blayney to Newcastle for
export to Japan
• NorthParkes – copper and gold. Output
railed in containers from Goonumbla to
Newcastle and Port Kembla for smelting.
• Broken Hill - silver, lead and zinc. Output
is railed in open wagons (with covers) to
Newcastle and Port Pirie (SA) for smelting
• Quarry products encompass non-mineral
rocks recovered from the earth.
• Included in this are commodities such as
limestone and the varieties of rock used for
ballast, roadbase and gravel.
• Limestone is an important element in
making both cement and steel.
• Rail plays an important role in shipping the
limestone from quarry to end users in the
supply chains in both cement and steel
• Marulan limestone is also railed to
BlueScope Steel at Port Kembla to be used
as flux in the steel making process.
• Limestone is also quarried around Kandos
and Portland on the western slopes of the
Blue Mountains and processed into cement
at the Australian Cement plant at Kandos.
• A small but significant traffic for Pacific
National has been the Dunmore – Sydney
aggregates train (aka ‘Bedrock Betty’)
• This train carries stone aggregate and
roadbase material from the Boral quarry at
Dunmore to Boral plants at St Peters and
Enfield in Sydney.
• Ballast is a vital part of the machine ensemble of
the railway, anchoring track and sleepers in place
and providing drainage to the permanent way.
• RailCorp subsidiary RIC maintains three
permanent ballast quarries located at:
– Bombo (Illawarra)
– Ardglen (Main North)
– Martins Creek (North Coast)
• These three quarries provide almost 60% of
RailCorp/RIC’s annual ballast requirements
(over 600,000 tonnes in 2002/2003)
• Other sources of ballast are used by RIC
and ARTC, such as:
– privately-owned quarries
– mobile ballast crushing plants on railway land
(RIC has trialled mobile crushing plants at
Mellelea (Western) and Bethungra (Main South)
• Unlike the ‘rocks and seeds’ part of the
railway, the industrial products are a yearround operation, and carry a wide variety of
products. The main commodity groups are:
• Limestone is quarried at Medway (near Marulan)
in the Southern Highlands, and railed to the Blue
Circle Southern Cement works at Berrima and
Maldon to make cement
• Limestone is also quarried around Kandos on the
western slopes of the Blue Mountains and
transported by a unique aerial ropeway to the
Cement Australia plant at Kandos
• Cement from Berrima and Kandos is railed
to Sydney for bulk distribution from Blue
Circle Southern and Cement Australia
terminals at Enfield and Clyde yards.
• Cement from Berrima is also carried to
Somerton in Victoria.
• Pacific National carries all cement traffic in
NSW and Victoria.
• Petroleum products are carried by rail under
NSW government Community Service
Obligations (CSOs) aimed at getting
dangerous goods off roads and onto rail.
• Two petroleum refiners consign fuel by rail
• Shell awarded a 3-year transport contract to
Freight Australia (FA) in September 2002
to haul petroleum products from Sydney to
its bulk distribution depots in Canberra,
Tamworth and Dubbo.
• Pacific National had inherited the contracts
from FreightCorp and has regained Shell’s
contact since the takeover of FA in 2004.
• Ampol also rails fuel from Sydney to its
inland terminal at Bomen (near Wagga).
• The Ampol fuel traffic is handled by Pacific
• What is Intermodal freight?
• A good definition is: “Movement of freight using
a combination of transportation modes (i.e. truck,
rail, ocean or air transportation)”
• Rail plays its part in moving intermodal freight
with container trains connecting freight terminals
and ports in NSW and interstate.
• There are three distinct intermodal freight
flows in NSW:
– Intracity – to from Port Botany from suburban
– Intrastate – from hinterland container terminals
to Port Botany
– Interstate – north-south and east-west freight
flows that cater for terminating and through
• In Sydney,
Port Botany and
in the peripheral
• Not all intermodal terminals are common
user facilities, most are tied to a particular
freight forwarder or rail operator.
• Intermodal terminals in Sydney are located
at: Clyde, Cooks River, Enfield,
Leightonfield, Minto, Port Botany,
Sandown and Yennora.
• Intrastate intermodal freight flows move
containerised and non-bulk freight between freight
terminals in inland NSW and Sydney.
• A variety of commodities are moved in this way
packed in containers, such as cotton, rice,
specialty grains, wine, whitegoods, furniture,
foodstuffs, pet food and chemicals.
• An unusual intermodal commodity being moved
by rail against the hinterland-port traffic flow is
containerised rubbish, from Sydney’s Clyde yard
to Crisps Creek siding on the Canberra branch.
• Inland intermodal terminals are located in
the following NSW regional centres:
• Sydney lies in the middle on the Melbourne
to Brisbane ‘north-south’ corridor, and at
one end of the ‘east-west’ corridor to
Adelaide and Perth.
• Pacific National controls the majority of
interstate freight services, connecting
Sydney to Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne,
• In response to the Pacific National
monopoly on the interstate network, other
operators have begun running their own
intermodal trains, such as:
– QR National (Brisbane – Melbourne)
– ARG (Adelaide – Sydney)
• In 2002, Pacific National inherited National
Rail’s long term steel haulage contract with
BHP. This involves moving raw and
processed steel between the Whyalla and
Port Kembla steelworks and processing
plants around Australia.
• Despite BHP’s merger to become BHP
Billiton and the spin-off of BHP’s
steelmaking businesses into OneSteel and
BlueScope Steel, raw steel and steel
products remain major rail-hauled
commodities on the national network.
• Three PN steel services operate in NSW:
– Newcastle/Whyalla trains move steel from Whyalla to
processing plants in Victoria and New South Wales
– Wollongong/Perth trains move steel from Port Kembla
to processing plants in South Australia and Western
– Wollongong/Brisbane trains move steel from Port
Kembla to processing plants in New South Wales and