AUSTRALIA: A partnership of Downer Rail and Progress Rail is to supply 17 diesel locomotives to Tasmania's TasRail from mid-2013 under a A$60m contract which was signed on December 13.

The PR22L locomotives will replace the current fleet that is 'well beyond' its useful operating life and which TasRail Chairman Bob Annells recently told a parliamentary committee 'you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy'.

TasRail CEO Damien White said having a 'contemporary and standardised' fleet would 'substantially improve the safety, reliability, efficiency and capacity of rail freight services', and 'enable us to provide a level of service equal to a modern-day standard which in turn will help to meet long-term demand and increase our contestable market share'.

The tender had attracted worldwide interest, and White said TasRail was able to achieve a 'very competitive' price. The deciding factor in awarding the contract to Downer Rail/Progress Rail was proven haulage capability on curves and gradients 'unique to the TasRail network'.

The Tasmanian state government bought the 1 067 mm gauge network from Pacific National in 2009 and launched a major investment programme. On December 9 Infrastructure Minister David O'Byrne said the state will continue 'investing responsibly' in a modern and reliable freight rail network, with over A$400m of state and federal funding allocated in 2009-16. 'That investment is already showing results, with customer numbers growing, and fewer derailments', he said.

The freight operator expects to call tenders in early 2012 for the supply of a new wagon fleet, and has applied for an additional A$240m from Infrastructure Australia for further works.

  • A year-long investigation into allowing tourist and heritage passenger operations on the TasRail network has concluded that access is not possible in the short to medium term. The situation will be reviewed in two to three years.