Port linkage integral to success of Inland Rail

National transport reforms have led to some improvements in the rail regulatory regime, but much more needs to be done to achieve the full benefits of reform.

The ALC dissects this year’s Inland Rail Conference, looking at critical steps to increase the share of rail freight into the future.

The third annual Inland Rail Conference was held between the 25-27 May this year. The Australian Logistics Council (ALC) and the Australasian Railways Association (ARA) welcomed leaders from across the industry to the meeting in Albury, which was opened by Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack.

The Inland Rail project, now well and truly in the construction phase, will create a corridor of commerce, bringing sustainable quality jobs to regional Australia while removing freight from the road network to alleviate congestion.

The meeting heard that the promise of moving freight from Melbourne to Brisbane in one day could change the way freight is moved in Australia, from a ratio of 30 per cent movement by rail, to 62 per cent by 2050.

Attendees also heard that growth occurs around transport routes, with research indicating that complementary market-driven investments made along the rail line could support 2500 full time jobs after 10 years of Inland Rail’s operation. It could also boost gross regional product by up to $13.3 billion in the first 50 years.

The importance of the development of intermodal capacity was also recognised. The conference discussed the importance of the role intermodals play to ensure that Australia’s transport network operates as a complete system.

The establishment of special activation precincts was recognised for helping businesses to support the efficient operation of Inland Rail in places such as Wagga, Parkes and Narrabi. The development of intermodals in areas like St Marys and Moorebank in NSW and Toowoomba in Queensland have also played a hand in Inland Rail’s success. 

The conference was told the development of the Parkes hub is particularly important, as its position at the juncture of Inland Rail and the East-West rail line will permit cost-effective movement of goods to all states of mainland Australia.

However, industry and government need to work together so that both consumer choice of transport mode for freight and investments in road and rail networks can be improved.

Industry needs to ensure that the information is shared, so efficient decisions about freight can be made. In the long term, this could be done through the Freight Data Hub being developed as part of Australia’s National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy, which is the Federal framework that considers issues that cross state borders.

Governments need to ensure that planning decisions – such as restricting residential encroachment on industrial precincts – still allow for the continuous movement of freight.

Attendees urged the New South Wales Government to take urgent action to deliver its rail productivity strategy so that its target of rail having a 28 per cent share of freight movement in 2021 is realised.

Kirk Coningham, ALC CEO, says: “The Queensland Government must advance the next stage of analysis for a link to the Port of Brisbane to confirm the preferred alignment, and begin the planning and approval process. This needs to include all necessary corridor and land acquisitions.”

The outcome needs to be a freight corridor that doesn’t mix with passenger freight.

“A dedicated freight rail corridor linking terminal and container ports exists in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and Perth,” Kirk says. 

Finally, approval pathways for the development of the Kagaru to Acacia Ridge link should be prioritised, as should any work being performed to facilitate the movement of freight by rail from the Port of Brisbane. 

For more information on ALC, click here.

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