News, Road upgrades

Vulnerability of trans-national freight links exposed again on Australia Day

freight links

Australia’s highly vulnerable trans-national freight links were again exposed on Australia Day, says WA’s peak trucking body, the Western Roads Federation (WRF).

As the monsoon, ex-tropical cyclones and thunderstorms combined to cut or threaten road and rail links across the country, the road and rail industry put measures in place adapt to the disruptions, says WRF CEO Cam Dumesny.

Dumesny says that’s a tribute to the professionalism of the road and rail logistics industry, but they need a lot more help from all levels of government.

“Despite parliamentary inquiries about similar events they have learnt nothing and done even less about freight disruptions,” Dumesny said.

“Even simple measures such as immediate implementation of alternative routes is still time consuming despite the goodwill of all parties involved.”

As Dumesny also pointed out, it’s not as if these events are rare and cited the following as examples.

January 2020 – Perth to Adelaide: The highway was closed for over 10 days due to bushfires. Within that period, the Perth to Darwin highway was also closed due to wet season flooding.
January 2022 – Adelaide to Darwin: Flooding closed the highway and rail for over four weeks, forcing a detour via NSW and Queensland.
Jan 2022 – Perth to Adelaide: Flooding briefly disrupted the highway, but the rail line was closed for over four weeks. It should be noted that rail carries about 80 per cent of the east-west freight task.
Jan 2023 – Perth to Darwin: Route closed for several months when bridge washed away, forcing a 10,000km return detour.

Image: Western Roads Federation

Dumesny says the lack of action on addressing highly vulnerable transnational freight routes is reflective of an overall failure of governments to comprehend the critical importance of the supply chains and logistics to the economy and national security.

He added that the industry is a “fundamental enabler” in helping address the on-going cost of living crisis; stemming the flood of manufacturers leaving Australia (or going insolvent); national security via logistics support to our Northern Defence bases; reducing carbon emissions; and providing social equity to remote and regional communities.

“While governments are to be commended on some infrastructure investment, the neglect of productivity and the on-going industry skills shortages must be addressed. In fact a coherent comprehensive plan would be nice.

“This latest event warning should serve as a call to action to governments, to work with industry on productivity, skills and resilience measures that can help industry and so help all Australians.”

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