Victoria is taking big strides in meeting the challenge of a rapidly growing freight task. Freight volumes are expected to more than double in the next two decades, demanding a new approach to the way freight moves around the state.
Getting more freight on rail is a key aim of Victoria’s 2018 freight plan Delivering the Goods, which mapped a way to move more freight by rail and reduce the state’s heavy reliance on the road network.
Now in its fourth year of implementation, Delivering the Goods has seen strong investment in the regional rail freight network and further progress in developing short-haul rail to move containers between the Port of Melbourne and metropolitan areas.
The Port Rail Shuttle Network is made up of intermodal terminals in Altona in the city’s west, Somerton in the north and Dandenong South in the south-east, as well as new tracks at the Port of Melbourne that can accommodate 600-metre-long shuttle trains.
On its anticipated opening next year, the Port Rail Shuttle is expected to shift between 10 and 20 per cent of the Port of Melbourne’s container throughput, a figure expected to grow to nearly 30 per cent by 2050.
The Port Rail Shuttle will also reduce truck numbers in the inner city, remove congestion around the port and give industry a more cost-effective way to get product to market.
Delivering the Goods also recognises that road transport will continue to be the dominant mode of freight delivery, and the sole mode for the last kilometre.
That’s why Victoria has been at the forefront of reforms that have boosted heavy vehicle productivity like in-principle approval of Performance Based Standards (PBS) vehicles and the use of reference designs and pre-approved networks to simplify the process of getting a permit.
As well as expanding access to the existing road network, Victoria is also adding capacity.
Thirty-six kilometres of new lanes were recently added on the Monash and Princes Freeways in Melbourne’s south-east.
The Monash Freeway accommodates more than 40 per cent of all commercial movements across Melbourne and as freight journeys continue to grow, the Monash Freeway Upgrade will help freight remain competitive by delivering travel time savings to key freight destinations.
Two further road projects are underway as part of Victoria’s Big Build that will completely revolutionise the way freight moves around Melbourne.
Due for completion in 2025, the West Gate Tunnel Project will deliver the road freight industry an alternative to the West Gate Bridge as well as direct access to Swanson Dock at the Port of Melbourne for combinations like A-doubles operating at 85.5 tonnes and B-triples operating at 91 tonnes.
Also revolutionising the movement of freight into and around the Melbourne metropolitan area is North East Link, which will connect the M80 Ring Road with an upgraded Eastern Freeway, fixing the missing link in Melbourne’s freeway network.
The lack of a direct link between the north and south-east of Melbourne has been a brake on the productivity of the freight industry, and the completion of the Ring Road has long been high on the industry’s wish list.
To help streamline road access to the Port of Melbourne, Victoria has introduced the Voluntary Port Performance Model.
It establishes clear protocols for the stevedores at the Port of Melbourne to notify of price increases or the introduction of any new land-side charges, and an explanation of price increases and the timing of price changes.
It includes sets of performance indicators on the Port of Melbourne which are consistent, measurable and meaningful to the road freight industry.
A key aim of Victoria’s recently released commercial ports strategy has been to boost the efficiency of the landside interface at Victoria’s four commercial ports.
Navigating Our Port Futures, released in July, requires a Landside Access Plan (LAP) for each commercial port. Each LAP will identify how major commodities are being moved to and from each port and identify those specific issues causing congestion and delays.
This includes improving access for more productive heavy vehicles between the port and key customers, including a 20-year forecast of how cargo volumes will be accommodated and transported.
Navigating Our Port Futures also acknowledges the need for the freight industry to accommodate Victoria’s commitment to net-zero emissions by 2050.
To achieve this, Victoria has begun investing in hydrogen research and production and a refuelling network.
The state’s framework is based on the use of electric-powered freight vehicles up to around 16-tonne GVM, with hydrogen performing a more dominant role in powering larger and long-haul vehicles.
As global supply chains remained disrupted in the wake of the pan-demic, the Victorian Government is focussed heavily on improving landside access to ports and across the state so goods can get to where they need to go.
- Melissa Horne is Victoria’s Minister for Ports and Freight and keynote speaker at MEGATRANS2022 in Melbourne, August 24-26.