ARTC in the gunsights

One of Australia’s leading rail companies has taken aim at the Australian Rail Track Corporation, saying its role as a cash-cow for the government is detrimental to rail’s development.
The Australian Rail Track Corporation’s (ARTC) mandate should be to maximise freight on rail rather than make a profit, SCT Logistics chief executive Geoff Smith said.
"Any diminished profitability of track access is trivial compared with benefits to Australia of ensuring that rail infrastructure is used as efficiently as it can be," he said.
Speaking at a Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) event in Melbourne entitled Rail Reform: Getting freight back on track, Mr Smith said that the ARTC was "a corporation with profit accountability".
He said the February 2008 decision to increase track access charges on the east-west corridor by 10 per cent while decreasing track access on the north-south corridor by 10 per cent was retrograde. This had led to an increase in freight rates to Perth.
Mr Smith said rail’s share of the north-south freight market cannot grow without major improvements on the line.
"If we are to swing volumes from road to rail on the eastern seaboard, that will be driven by a more competitive pricing structure," he said.
"To reduce prices we need a network which facilitates optimum trains and that’s where the government’s investments can allow us to do that.”
Australasian Railway Association CEO Bryan Nye said the sorry state of the country’s grain rail infrastructure meant that if the drought were to break, farmers would struggle to get their harvest to the ports.
Mr Nye also noted that the average age of Australian locomotives generally was 34.5 years as opposed to eight years in the USA, and rolling stock was also aging and in short supply.
National Transport Commission CEO Nick Dimopoulos has also slammed government inaction and “short-term fixes” on rail policy, and called for immediate action saying “it’s time to stop talking and get on with the job!”
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