Freight hub announcement only half the story, says logistics giant


SCT Logistics welcomes the $2 billion budget commitment from the federal government to the Melbourne Intermodal Terminal, but stresses the need for this to be part of an integrated infrastructure policy.

SCT is one of Australia’s two largest rail freight providers, and has been advocating for the need for competitive neutrality between rail, road, and sea freight for some time.

“This announcement is a positive, but the benefits will only flow with complementary private sector investment,” said Geoff Smith, managing director of SCT.

“With the national freight task increasing by $35 billion annually by 2030, significant investments of this nature will be required, but they cannot be deployed in isolation.”

Smith highlighted the need to integrate the three freight modes in the context of the $15 billion Inland Rail Project, which will see the Melbourne-Brisbane rail line upgraded and enhanced, representing the country’s largest single transport infrastructure project. It also needs to align with the Victorian government’s Port Rail Shuttle Network initiative.

“A Victorian transport hub needs to be integrated with Inland Rail. Both projects require private sector investment from the likes of our company, and this will only be forthcoming if the government is more proactive in the management of the relationship between road, rail and sea,” added Smith.

SCT Logistics has invested more than $200 million along the Inland Rail route in recent years, in anticipation of the federal government project being implemented.

Smith points to the example of increasingly unregulated foreign-flagged ships sailing domestic freight segments at the expense of the domestic rail freight industry as one structural inequity between the sectors.

“This landscape is skewed by foreign ships gaming the regulatory system, and not paying any access charges akin to those levied by the federal government through the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC),” said Smith.

“By comparison, foreign-flagged ships can access these domestic routes for as little as $400 for each permit, underlining the need for greater sovereignty and security in Australia’s supply chain, especially in the current climate.”

The integration between north-south and east-west was also important in the location of the Victorian site, as was the ability to enhance rail connectivity to the Port of Melbourne, he added.

“This is another crucial component of the overall story that needs to be accommodated, and a key aspect of removing trucks from congested metropolitan roads, especially across the last mile.

“You cannot make these budget announcements in isolation. These assets will be important to addressing the emerging national freight task, but must be complemented by the right long-term environment to encourage further private sector investment.”

VTA CEO Peter Anderson said the investments outlined by the Treasurer this week will be vital to meeting Victoria’s future freight needs and would be welcomed by the freight and logistics industry.

“With Victoria’s population expected to pass seven billion over the next four years, we need to ensure our infrastructure not only grows with it – but does so in a strategic way. This budget will go a long way to helping us achieve that,” Anderson said.

“The slated intermodal terminal and the connection that will bring to our rail, port and road networks is particularly welcome. We will continue to work with all governments to ensure that this funding benefits the freight industry and the people of Victoria.”

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