The Federal Court has dismissed the ACCC’s proceedings against rail companies Pacific National and Aurizon, which related to control of Acacia Ridge Terminal, a key asset in Australia’s intermodal rail network. Read more
The National Transport Commission (NTC) has announced the appointment of Dr Gillian Miles as its new chief executive officer and commissioner.
Dr Miles, a former Victorian government senior executive, will commence in the role next week following an extensive recruitment process.
NTC chairwoman Carolyn Walsh said the appointment of Dr Miles has come at an important time with the NTC undertaking a number of significant reforms in land transport.
“Innovation, change management and a strategic mindset were front of mind for this appointment, particularly as the NTC continues to make major progress on several landmark transport reforms, including the regulation of automated vehicles and a review of the heavy vehicle national law.
“I’m confident that Gillian’s wealth of knowledge and experience is well suited to leading the NTC through a period of significant change across the land transport sector,” Ms Walsh said.
Ms Walsh also acknowledged the contribution of acting CEO Dr Geoff Allan following the departure of former CEO and commissioner Paul Retter AM in late 2018.
Dr Miles comes to the NTC with a long history of related senior appointments, including:
- Head of Transport for Victoria, 2015–2018.
- Chief executive officer, City of Greater Geelong, 2014–2015.
- Head of strategy & performance, Transport Accident Commission, 2013–2014.
- Deputy Secretary, Transport, Department of Transport, Planning and Local Infrastructure, 2009–2013.
- Deputy Secretary, Community Development, Department of Planning and Community Development, 2007–2009.
- Executive Director Regional Services, VicRoads, 2002–2007.
- Board member Roads Australia.
Australia’s largest rail freight operator has set in motion “a plan to revolutionise freight movements across the length and breadth of the country,” said Pacific National CEO Dean Dalla Valle.
Mr Dalla Valle said Pacific National’s future goal is to offer its customers, including regional exporters, more efficient and productive connections to rail heads, ports, and intermodal freight terminals where trains and trucks meet.
“The spine of this network will comprise of the key freight hubs of Port Botany, Penrith, Parkes and Perth – what we like to call at Pacific National the ‘Four Ps’.
“Once the north-south Inland Rail is completed, the east-west spine at Parkes will have a faster and more efficient connection to the ports of Melbourne and Brisbane,” said Mr Dalla Valle.
Pacific National is currently constructing inland regional Australia’s largest logistics terminal at Parkes (to run 1,800-metre freight trains double-stacked with containers to Perth), whilst also proposing the development of a major freight hub at St Marys, near Penrith.
Mr Dalla Valle said the proposed St Mary’s Freight Hub is located within Sydney’s biggest catchment area for many of the country’s largest national distribution centres and warehouses which service Western Sydney – one of the most populous and fast-growing regions in Australia.
“St Marys is located within close proximity to the key industrial and commercial estates of Eastern Creek, Erskine Park, Wetherill Park, Arndell Park, and Marsden Park; not to mention the future Western Sydney Airport at Badgerys Creek,” said Mr Dalla Valle.
Mr Dalla Valle said the proposed St Marys Freight Hub is a stone’s throw from the M4 and M7 motorways and Great Western Highway and has direct access to the T1 Western Rail Line allowing for a 58-kilometre shuttle run between Port Botany.
“With up to five train shuttle services each day, Pacific National will rail a total of 300,000 containers between Port Botany and St Marys each year, removing between 70,000 and 80,000 truck movements from Sydney’s heavily congested road network,” said Mr Dalla Valle.
Mr Dalla Valle said in the future, Pacific National’s St Marys Freight Hub will receive 1,200-metre regional trains from Parkes to be broken into 600-metre port shuttles to better access stevedoring terminals at Port Botany.
“The Penrith region will act as a conduit for regional freight between Western Sydney and Western NSW and further afield to Australia’s second largest port at Botany,” said Mr Dalla Valle.
Pending local and state government planning approvals, Pacific National aims to start construction of St Marys Freight Hub this year. First stage of the proposed freight hub development will support 60 full-time construction jobs.
When operational, the freight hub will create 150 new full-time jobs in Western Sydney.
“Parkes is known as the Elvis capital of Australia, but in the future, it will also be known in freight circles as the ‘Memphis Down Under’,” Pacific National CEO Dean Dalla Valle said.
Australia’s largest rail freight operator, Pacific National, has welcomed the NSW Government’s announcement establishing a ‘special activation precinct’ to help streamline the continued development of Parkes Shire Council’s National Logistics Hub.
“Companies like Pacific National will have the added investment confidence to help create the largest freight and logistics precinct in inland regional Australia; akin to the major freight hub of Memphis in the interior of the United States of America,” Mr Dalla Valle said.
Pacific National has committed an initial $35 million to develop the company’s Parkes Logistics Terminal, located within the National Logistics Hub, and acquire rollingstock like freight wagons.
Mr Dalla Valle said Pacific National’s terminal will act as a future facility to consolidate hundreds of thousands of cargo containers, including boxes filled with regional commodities destined for overseas markets, to be hauled by rail across the length and breadth of Australia.
“Once the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail project is complete, regional enterprises can use Parkes as the launching pad to haul goods and commodities by rail more efficiently between the ports of Botany, Brisbane, Melbourne and Fremantle,’ said Mr Dalla Valle.
Located at the intersection of the main western railway line running from Sydney to Perth, the future Inland Rail corridor from Melbourne to Brisbane, and the Newell Highway, Parkes is the perfect place to establish an intermodal freight terminal – a place where trains and trucks meet.
Construction of Pacific National’s terminal commenced in October 2018. Freight trains 1,800-metres in length are expected to be hauling freight from the terminal to Perth later this year.
Mr Dalla Valle said once fully operational, Pacific National’s Parkes Logistics Terminal will have the capacity to process approximately 450,000 cargo containers each year, including the ability to haul double-stacked containers from Parkes to Perth.
“Pacific National is proud to be part of Parkes. Terminal construction is currently generating about 40 jobs, while the future terminal will have a workforce of 100 people,” said Mr Dalla Valle.
Mr Dalla Valle said today’s announcement by the NSW Government represents a ‘tripling-down’ on great ideas.
“Parkes Shire Council’s National Logistics Hub, Australian Government’s Inland Rail project, and NSW Government’s special activation precinct – three great ideas,” Mr Dalla Valle said.
The ACCC has acknowledged Aurizon’s sale of its Queensland intermodal business to Linfox.
The ACCC has considered the Linfox proposal, and has decided that a public review of the transaction is not required, as it does not consider the acquisition by Linfox will give rise to a substantial lessening of competition.
“Linfox’s operations in Queensland are relatively limited, and the transaction will mean there will remain two intermodal rail line-haul providers in Queensland, which is a good outcome for rail competition and Queenslanders,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said.
Aurizon had previously announced that it would shut the Queensland intermodal business if it couldn’t progress the earlier transaction proposal involving Pacific National.
Under the earlier transaction proposal, it planned to sell the rail component of the Queensland intermodal rail business to Pacific National, its only competitor in intermodal rail in Queensland.
“The ACCC did not consider that Aurizon’s shut-down plans were rational given there were other options,” Mr Sims said.
“The sale of the Queensland intermodal business demonstrates why the ACCC must always question claims that businesses will be shut if we don’t approve a merger.”
The ACCC litigation concerning the sale of Acacia Ridge Rail Terminal to Pacific National and Aurizon’s intermodal sale process is continuing.
The Federal Court has ordered that Aurizon must continue operating its Queensland intermodal business while the ACCC’s case against Pacific National and Aurizon is heard and determined.
The ACCC instituted proceedings in July this year against Pacific National and Aurizon, and their related entities, for allegedly reaching an understanding about Aurizon’s intermodal business that had the purpose and/or would be likely to have the effect of substantially lessening competition in the supply of intermodal and steel rail linehaul services.
In addition, the ACCC alleges that Pacific National’s proposed acquisition of Aurizon’s Queensland intermodal business and the Acacia Ridge Terminal, as well as an agreement for Pacific National to operate the interstate side of the Acacia Ridge Terminal, would each separately have the likely effect of substantially lessening competition.
Following today’s hearing, the ACCC has been granted injunctions against Aurizon which require it to continue to operate its Queensland intermodal business. The ACCC also sought orders for injunctions against Pacific National not to solicit employees and the top 10 customers of the business until the court proceedings are finalised, however those orders were not made.
“Given Aurizon’s previous announcements that it would close its Queensland intermodal business if the Pacific National acquisition was opposed by the ACCC, the ACCC sought an urgent interlocutory injunction to prevent Aurizon from closing its Queensland intermodal business until the ACCC’s proceedings involving that business are determined by the Court,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.
“It is part of the ACCC’s case that, at all times, Aurizon had alternatives to selling to Pacific National that would have been more competitive. The ACCC is aware of at least one alternative purchaser that is willing and able to acquire Aurizon’s entire remaining intermodal business.”
The final proceedings have been set down for a two week hearing starting on 19 November 2018.
“The ACCC will allege that it was more lucrative for Aurizon to agree to sell parts of the intermodal business to the closest competitor and close parts of that business than it was to sell the whole intermodal business to a new entrant,” Mr Sims said.
The ACCC has instituted proceedings in the Federal Court against Pacific National and Aurizon, and their related entities, for allegedly reaching an understanding in relation to Aurizon’s intermodal business that had the purpose and/or would be likely to have the effect of substantially lessening competition in the supply of intermodal and steel rail linehaul services.
“The ACCC alleges that in July 2017 Pacific National and Aurizon reached an understanding that would lead to Aurizon exiting its intermodal business through a combination of closure and transactions with Pacific National. The effect of the understanding was that Aurizon would stop competing with Pacific National to supply intermodal and steel rail linehaul services throughout Australia,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said.
The ACCC also alleges that Pacific National’s proposed acquisition of Aurizon’s Queensland intermodal business and the Acacia Ridge Terminal, as well as an agreement for Pacific National to operate the interstate side of the Acacia Ridge Terminal, would separately each have the likely effect of substantially lessening competition.
The ACCC is seeking declarations, pecuniary penalties, orders restraining Pacific National from acquiring the Acacia Ridge Terminal and Aurizon’s Queensland intermodal business, and costs. The ACCC has also applied for an injunction to prevent Aurizon from closing its Queensland intermodal business while the case is being determined.
Aurizon intermodal sale process
During the first half of 2017, Aurizon engaged in a sales process for its intermodal business. That business consisted of several interconnected components, including the Acacia Ridge Terminal, and its interstate intermodal and Queensland intermodal businesses (which both depend on access to the Acacia Ridge Terminal).
The ACCC alleges that, in late July 2017, Pacific National and Aurizon reached an understanding and Aurizon terminated its sales process with other bidders.
The ACCC alleges that the understanding involved Pacific National obtaining control of Acacia Ridge Terminal, either by PN acquiring the terminal or, if that was prevented by the ACCC, by a long term contract appointing it as operator of the interstate side of the terminal, commencing 1 December 2018.
The ACCC also alleges that the understanding involved Pacific National becoming the exclusive bidder for Aurizon’s Queensland intermodal business, but that if Pacific National did not acquire that business, Aurizon would close it.
The ACCC alleges that Pacific National and Aurizon gave effect to this understanding by executing formal contracts including contracts for the sale of the Acacia Ridge Terminal and the operation of the Acacia Ridge Terminal (the Terminal Services Subcontract), and to negotiate exclusively for the sale/purchase of the Queensland intermodal business. Subsequently, Pacific National and Aurizon entered into an agreement for Pacific National to acquire the Queensland intermodal business.
In addition, Aurizon announced the closure of its interstate intermodal business on 14 August 2017. The business was closed by December 2017.
Earlier this year, Aurizon announced that it would close its Queensland intermodal business if the ACCC opposed the proposed acquisition by Pacific National.
The ACCC alleges that the closure of Aurizon’s interstate intermodal business and the planned closure of the Queensland intermodal business is a direct and expected consequence of the understanding reached with Pacific National.
The ACCC’s competition concerns
“Pacific National and Aurizon are the only providers of intermodal rail linehaul on the North Coast Line servicing northern Queensland. The ACCC alleges that the understanding, the proposed acquisitions by Pacific National and the agreement appointing Pacific National as operator of the Acacia Ridge Terminal would have the effect of creating a monopoly on that route,” Mr Sims said.
“Further, Pacific National and Aurizon were, at the time of the understanding, two of only three competitors on interstate routes. We consider that Aurizon’s closure of its interstate intermodal business substantially lessened competition on those interstate routes.
“At all times, Aurizon had alternatives to selling to Pacific National that would have been more competitive. The ACCC is aware of at least one alternative purchaser that is willing and able to acquire Aurizon’s entire remaining intermodal business,” Mr Sims said.
“However, the evidence makes it clear that it was more lucrative for Aurizon to agree to sell parts of its intermodal business to its closest competitor, and close other parts of that business, than it was to sell the whole intermodal business to a potential new entrant.”
“Given Aurizon’s announcement that it will close its Queensland intermodal business if the Pacific National acquisition is opposed by the ACCC, in circumstances where there is at least one alternative purchaser, the ACCC is seeking an interlocutory injunction to prevent Aurizon from closing this business until the matter is determined by the Court,” Mr Sims said.
During the ACCC’s review, Pacific National sought to address the ACCC’s concerns relating to its proposed acquisition of the Acacia Ridge Terminal by offering a court enforceable undertaking that it would not discriminate in providing access to the Acacia Ridge Terminal.
“The ACCC is of the view that the long term behavioural undertaking offered by Pacific National is not capable of addressing the ACCC’s concerns about the loss of competition resulting from the alleged understanding or Pacific National’s proposed acquisitions of Aurizon’s Queensland intermodal business and the Acacia Ridge Terminal,” Mr Sims said.
Further information is available at Pacific National Pty Ltd / Linfox – proposed acquisitions of Intermodal assets from Aurizon.
The Australian Logistics Council (ALC) has welcomed an announcement that next week’s Federal Budget will contain $300 million to duplicate the freight rail line from Port Botany to Enfield as a major step forward for enhanced supply chain efficiency.
The funding forms part of an intergovernmental agreement signed in Parkes, NSW, between Ministers representing the Federal and NSW Governments. The agreement is a seminal moment in the progress of the Inland Rail Project that will form the backbone of the nation’s supply chains in the years ahead.
“ALC has been calling for the duplication of the freight rail line at Port Botany, as part of the Inland Rail Project, for a significant period of time. It was again identified as an urgent priority in ALC’s 2018-19 Commonwealth Budget Submission, and it is very pleasing that the Federal Government has now come to the party,” said ALC managing director Michael Kilgariff.
“Improving freight rail links into Australia’s major ports and boosting the use of short-haul rail from ports to intermodal terminals is essential in the drive to enhanced supply chain efficiency and safety, as outlined in Freight Doesn’t Vote, ALC’s major submission to the Inquiry Into National Freight and Supply Chain Priorities.”
“Currently, around 444,000 TEU per year moves to and from Port Botany by rail, and this continues to grow. Duplicating the freight rail line at Port Botany will allow NSW Ports to realise its objective of moving 3 million TEU annually by rail over the long term.”
“Ensuring efficient freight rail linkages to our ports and intermodal terminals is another critical piece of the Inland Rail puzzle, if we are to reap the full economic and efficiency benefits from the substantial public investment being made in the project,” Mr Kilgariff said.
Is it worth doing?
Ardent critic of the project Greg Cameron is not convinced, believing neither the Port Botany duplication nor the whole of the Inland Rail Project are worth continuing.
“If Botany is a commercially viable container port, why does the NSW government charge a fee of $150 per container at the Port of Newcastle, which it pays to Port Botany lessee, NSW Ports?” Mr Cameron said.
“A competing container terminal at Newcastle also makes the Inland Rail Line commercially unviable, because it will win container business from northern NSW. This explains why state and federal governments decline to acknowledge that the Newcastle container fee is anti-competitive.”
The development of Australia’s largest intermodal freight hub – Moorebank Logistics Park (MLP) in Sydney’s Southwest – is on track, according to Qube Managing Director, Maurice James.
As of this month, the developer has reached an “in-principle agreement” with a second tenant for warehouse space, with the client reserving 150,000m² of land at Moorebank for development up to seven years, according to Australian Financial Review. Last year, it secured commitments from Target Australia and Qube Logistics, representing a commitment of 80,000sqm, or just 10 per cent shy of its total warehouse capacity.
The developer is confident there will be continued traction with tenant interest in warehouse space at MLP, but they will be “selective” in their choice of tenants, focusing on securing tenants that drive “significant volumes” of containerised freight.
“We are delighted with this arrangement with what we expect will be a long-term client of the MLP”, said James. “This agreement highlights the substantial flexibility that Qube has to structure arrangements with prospective tenants that meet their particular requirements without adversely impacting the commercial returns from the project.”
Despite the complex nature of the MLP planning process – which involves Commonwealth entity Moorebank Intermodal Company (MIC), in addition to multiple NSW state agencies – Qube has stated that the precinct development is keeping to timeline.
The company has reported that the construction of the precinct infrastructure and stage 1 of the import-export (IMEX) rail terminal is underway and that operations are “on track” to “commence in the first quarter of calendar 2019”. They also gained planning approval in late January 2018 for Moorebank Precinct East – Stage 2, which was a key requirement to enable the timely construction of the initial warehouses.
Qube is expecting significant long-term earnings with the MLP development, however, has pointed out their focus is on “substantial value creation rather than short term earnings”. The developer reported a decline of 5.4 per cent to the interim net profit, with a total of $45.2 million after tax.
James said that Qube had performed a “solid first half,” having finalised major tenant agreements for Moorebank and secured an interim dividend of 2.7 cents per share.
While the developer is confident that they will deliver an increased underlying net profit after tax for the latter part of the 2018 financial year, the continued achievement of milestones required for the operation of MLP in the first quarter of 2019 is dependent on New South Wales planning approvals and the receipt of these required approvals from MIC.
Logistics infrastructure company Linx Cargo Care Group has successfully bid to operate the Enfield Intermodal Terminal in Western Sydney, which is currently operated by Aurizon.
Linx will lease and operate the NSW Ports–owned, 15.1-hectare intermodal terminal located 18km from Port Botany, west of Sydney.
Linx will operate a port shuttle service between Enfield and Port Botany to reduce traffic congestion in Sydney, ahead of a forecasted increase of 400 per cent in truck traffic in the Port Botany area by 2030.
“Given the forecast for such a significant increase in road and rail congestion across Sydney over the next decade or so, Linx is committed to working closely with the New South Wales state government to develop an effective and achievable solution that will reduce the impact of increased freight movements across the city,” said Anthony Jones, CEO, Linx Cargo Care Group. “Linx has been building its rail capabilities for the past year in readiness for an opportunity like this.”
He added that part of the solution could include the duplication of the freight rail line between Port Botany and the interstate corridor mainline.
The Enfield Intermodal Logistics Centre includes the intermodal terminal, warehousing, and buildings with vacant land for the development of rail-related warehousing, freight forwarding, IMEX (Import and Export), transport and distribution facilities.
“Linx is currently working closely with NSW Ports to support the development of a freight hub on the land surrounding the Enfield Intermodal Terminal,” added Jones.
Marika Calfas, CEO, NSW Ports, said one of NSW Ports’ key objectives is increasing the number of containers moved by rail to and from Port Botany.
“Linx are well placed to expand the intermodal and rail services at the Enfield ILC and grow the rail mode share to and from Australia’s premier port,” she said.