NSWs $8B rail pledge

Hailed the biggest expansion of the rail network in 30 years, the State Government said planning for the new link from Sydney,s north-west to south-west was expected to be finished by 2009, with construction works to be completed from 2011-2017. The line is expected to be funded through a mix of borrowings, budget funding and private sector finance. It is believed the Government has already begun acquiring land for the new rail service. It is thought five new stations will be built on a new line extending from Central Station in Sydney,s CBD to St Leonard,s in the north. The announcement comes as the $A2 billion Epping to Chatswood rail line hit a major milestone this week, with excavation work completed on the first tunnel in the city,s north. A tunnel-boring machine broke through at Chatswood to complete the first of the project,s two 12.5km tunnels. The entire line is expected to be running by mid-2008. Sydney,s other major tunnel project, the $A680 million Cross City Tunnel, is due to open end-July.
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Chinese blow in

CBD had been assessing several options for the two Chinese companies, with Taralga the first of the projects off the block.The project has approvals for up to 61 wind turbines, which RES said should provide a combined 100 megawatts of energy, providing about 300 gigawatts of energy to power 40,000 homes per year.The consortium, named AusChina, expects to start work on the farm later this year with a completion date set for 2013.CBD managing director Gerry McGowan said it was both a major milestone for the consortium and for CBD.“It brings together two Fortune 500 Chinese companies which will provide equipment and expertise in a major project in Australia,” he said.“Involvement of these companies means renewable energy can be produced more economically and begin to represent a cost effective alternative to traditional energy in Australia.AusChina was formed in April this year with an eye to capturing a third of the Australian wind power market.CBD was appointed to manage the consortium, earning a management fee of 0.5% per year of AusChina’s assets.

Investors flock to Transfield

The company said the $98 million retail component offer was oversubscribed, with applications received for about $109 million. Applications will be scaled back so the majority of eligible retail shareholders will receive their full application for new shares, which are expected to start trading on January 24. Transfield entered into an agreement to acquire Easternwell for $540 million in cash and $35 million in Transfield shares last month as part of an initiative in delivering the company’s strategy to build on its existing service offering by providing more technical and niche services in targeted end markets.The company will fund the purchase through a combination of debt and equity, including about $271 million in drawn debt under new facilities and raising $294 million through a two-for-nine accelerated non-renounceable entitlement offer.

JCB boosts Qld contractor

The Mackay-based company has been operating for seven years, undertaking a range of civil construction projects throughout central Queensland. It also has carried out maintenance work in the mining industry.Owner Ashley James said he previously had Hyundai, Case and Komatsu excavators, but acquired a JCB machine as soon as the opportunity was presented.The JS220 offers maximum dipper tear-out of 14,610 kilogram force, while maximum bucket tear-out is 15,800kgf. “There is a lot more speed in the hydraulics than with the other machines, which were all of the same size,” James said.“The fuel consumption with the JCB is better than all the other machines. With the other machines, they were running at 20-22 litres per hour, whereas with the JCB, the most I have burnt is 16 litres per hour on real heavy, hard rock country.“It normally runs at 14 litres per hour.”James said the multi-function hydraulic system in the JS220 allowed simultaneous, smooth control of all excavator functions and also ensured straight line tracking, whether other functions were being used or not.The system offers increased hydraulic flow and pressure for greater power and speed, and it is regenerative, resulting in faster cycle times and reduced fuel consumption.“The lifting mode is also very good and there is a factory built-in break-away, so if you blow hoses, nothing drops away,” he said.“I also like the fact that I can walk along the track of the machine. Half the track is outside the machine, which makes it easier for servicing.’’ He said another good feature was the JS220’s stability.“I do a lot of hill work and it is very good – it sits very stable.”

Civenex smashes attendance records

“This has been a record exhibitor attendance which reflects the value of the event, as well as the positive mood of the industry,” event organiser Frank Sticka said.“More importantly, the robust volume of high quality decision-making and business owning attendees continues to deliver sales prospects – exactly what exhibitors want.” Sticka said the strong exhibitor contingent this year resulted in sales of an additional 6000 square metres of paved area at the Western Sydney Dragway. In all, 26,000 square metres of exhibition space was sold. “Sites in a new 1500 square metre pavilion sold out quickly,” he said. “With some exhibitors already indicating the need for larger sites next year, there is optimism for the coming year and beyond from the infrastructure industry.”The show’s annual awards recognised Kennards Hire for the Best Outdoor Stand and Coates Hire as the runner up. Meanwhile the Best Indoor Stand award went to Draffin Manufacturing.The award for Most Innovative Product went to Tennant for the Gum Removal Vehicle, with Ranger and its Industrial Mobile Testing Bed For Chains/Slings as equal runner up with Combined Lighting Equipment for its Powercat.The Best Environmental Product went to Street Furniture Australia for its Aqua Water Fountain and plastic bottle refill, and Best New Product was awarded to Rigid’s See Snake Microexplorer.Civenex was held on May 20-21, 2010.

Imports on the way up

A total of 2524 machines were imported in the month compared to 1242 in February, according to Skelton Sherborne’s Shipping Index.The free-on-board value of the equipment also improved significantly from $196 million in February to $290 million in March – a 49% increase. Import figures were up in all categories except for bulldozers, which fell 19%.The biggest increase was in road making/paving and public works equipment, which rose by 628% from 64 imports in February to 466 in March. Excavators under 12 tonne was again the leading equipment category by volume, with 613 imports, or 24% of total imports.This was closely followed by wheel loaders at 480 units, or 19% of total imports. “We are seeing most of our customers starting to build their inventory levels,” Skelton Sherborne said.“Certainly not to pre-global financial crisis levels but nonetheless growth is evident.“Used equipment volumes have been slowly recovering also.”

Federal funding to tackle engineering skills shortage

Minister for education and employment Julia Gillard said the projects would be conducted by the Australian National Engineering Taskforce (ANET) to help the education sector and the industry combat engineering shortages.The first project will study demand and supply of engineering skills, while the second will research pathways for engineering education in the vocational education and training and university sectors.Gillard said the taskforce would build on recent increases in engineering university applications to help protect the industry from future skills shortages. The study will also focus on the participation of women and students from low socioeconomic backgrounds.“For many years Engineers Australia has been calling for more action to counter the inertia to increase the professional engineering skills base that is now looming as a huge constraint on further economic development of Australia,” chief executive of Engineers Australia Peter Taylor said.“The requirements for engineering expertise are only set to increase as more key infrastructure, resource and nation building projects get underway.“The announcement by the federal government to provide funding through the Australian National Engineering Taskforce to get on with the job of compiling the facts to face up to the increasingly dire outlook for building professional engineering skills capacity is most welcome. “Engineers Australia’s own research has pointed to a significant gap in the number of graduating engineers relative to the level needed for the current construction and other engineering activity being undertaken in the Australian economy.“While migration programs and uncapped university places for engineering are part of the solution, longer-term strategies are needed to ensure that all school students gain a broad base in the enabling sciences to take up the opportunity to become an engineer.“The number of students studying advanced maths and science needs to be increased, particularly female students who are severely under-represented compared to other professions.“In joining with our four partner organisations through the Australian National Engineering Taskforce, and now with the strong backing for ANET by the federal government, there is some reassurance that actions will be fast-tracked to deliver the strong and extensive professional engineering skills base that Australia must have for the future.” The taskforce will carry out the research projects this year with a report to be finalised by the end of 2010. ANET is a partnership between the Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers Australia, Engineers Australia, Consult Australia, the Australian Council of Engineering Deans and the Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering.

Macmahon scores $190M coal contract

The three-year contract will see Macmahon undertake all mining activities for stage 1 of the project, including planning, mine development, waste stripping, coal mining, coal preparation and train loading. Cameby Downs is located 17 kilometres northeast of Miles, which is approximately 360km west of Brisbane. Macmahon chief executive officer Nick Bowen said the award was an excellent addition to the mining business’s growth.“This award not only builds on our expertise in coal mining, it is also the first contract where we will operate and maintain the coal handling and preparation plant,” he said.“This contract win allows us to further develop our expertise in this area and provide customers with a full suite of services.” Production will start in July this year with the first coal train load expected in October. At full production in stage 1, the mine will produce 1.4 million tonnes per annum of thermal coal for export via Brisbane Port. Stage 1 mine development is subject to regulatory approvals and the development of the new Wiggins Island Coal Terminal and Surat Basin Rail infrastructure.Stage 2 production is expected to ship more than 10Mtpa via Gladstone Port. About 140 people will be employed onsite and, where practical, Macmahon will source the workforce from local communities.

GFC impacts on Coffey results

The professional services consultancy today announced an operating earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of $A31.1 million for the period, down 14% on the previous corresponding period due to a negative $5.6 million unrealised foreign exchange impact. When compared to the second half of the 2009 financial year, the operating EBITDA result is up by $11.4 million or 58%. This result was achieved on fee revenue from continuing operations of $241 million, down 7% on the December 2008 half-year result.Total revenue from continuing operations fell 3% on the June 2009 half year to $404.3 million, driven by the foreign exchange impact. The reported net profit fell 20% to $10.9 million, representing basic earnings per share of 9.5c. The company said that while there had been strong signs of a rebound in the Asia Pacific region, the impact of the global financial crisis continued to linger in the Middle East, Europe, the Americas and Brazil. “While the GFC has clearly had an impact on our first-half results, particularly outside the Asia Pacific region, Coffey is well positioned to take advantage of the gradual recovery being observed in other regions,” Coffey managing director Roger Olds said. “During the half, Coffey successfully implemented a new structure which positions us to execute our strategy for global growth across our four regions.“Under the new structure, the company has built a dedicated business development capability that is actively driving our organic growth plans.”Olds said the company would continue to focus on achieving efficiencies and strong working capital management while building the revenue base through increased business development activity. “We have a strong focus on returning the loss-making service lines to profitability as regional economies recover,” he said. “We are confident that we will continue to deliver strong results through our diversified business and current strategies, despite some continuing economic uncertainty and volatility in global economics.”Coffey’s net debt fell around $5.5 million for the period. The net debt to capital ratio has reduced 2% from the June 2009 half year to 31%. A fully-franked interim dividend of 7.5c per share was declared, a 1c per share drop on the prior corresponding period. The interim dividend will be paid on March 26. Shares in Coffey have slipped 9c to $2.05 in morning trade.

Topcon a pleasant change

The company runs two Topcon X63 3D excavator indicate systems on its Cat 324D excavators and a Topcon 3D-GPS+ system on its Cat 12H grader.For the past 2.5 years, the bulk of its work has been involvement in the $324 million Robina to Varsity Lakes Rail Extension Project on the Gold Coast for the TrackStar Alliance. Badenoch was a relatively early adopter of the benefits of machine control systems. “When I first bought my own machine, a 20-tonne excavator, I also ended up buying a 2D system,” he said.“At the time, I was doing a lot of pipeline works, where depth and grade in a 2D system is a great thing. We could just work away off that without any pegs or people checking heights and so forth.“Soon after, I went to work for Abigroup on the Brunswick Bypass, and they overlaid a 3D system. I worked there for a year and a half with the 3D on it, trimming all the bases and batters.“That was the start of it and, after that job, I bought that system and it just grew from there.”Earlier this year Badenoch decided to upgrade his machine control systems. “So – as you do – I went and looked at everything on the market,” he said.“After talking with Topcon and seeing their products and the quality of their gear and the backup, we decided to trade in all the competitor’s gear with Topcon and install their systems,” he said.Badenoch said Harry Katsanevas, Position Partners’ Queensland-based machine control manager, helped make the transition smooth.“Once I made the decision, it was a very seamless exercise. It only took a day, maybe a day and a half, and we were back working again,” he said.Badenoch said the TrackStar Alliance was also happy with the new system.“With the previous systems, it was sort of a 10-step process. It was a bit of a debacle getting the information from whatever format the surveyor happened to have – which everywhere you go was different – and then getting it on to the data cards,” he said.“That was always a drama. But now, with Topcon’s gear, it’s a simple thing on a little memory stick, a two-step process and it’s done.”Badenoch said the Topcon system had also been much easier for operators to learn and manage.“It’s a very simple screen with very clear instructions on how to use it, just a touch screen, which is a big positive with the Topcon gear,” he said.“The previous systems had two screens, which also meant a bit of time taking it on and off every day – because obviously you don’t want to leave the gear in the machine overnight.“We had five or six plugs to undo and get everything out, get the antennas off it and so on. But with Topcon’s gear, it’s one simple plug – the one screw and it is out. It’s nice and light and compact.”