Opinion

Port investments benefit heavy vehicle operators

port melbourne

In our modern, 21st century intermodal transport system, long-term investments in every facet of our industry are essential for the economic health and well-being of every type of operator.

That’s why as an advocate for the transport industry, the VTA is as vocal about road and rail infrastructure projects as we are investments in the ports and channels network, which is typically the first – and last – port of call for the vast majority of our imports and exports.

We therefore welcomed contracts being signed by the Victorian Government recently with WSP and Seymour Whyte Constructions for the design and early contract works for the Port Rail Construction Project.

The $125 million project will create productivity and efficiency improvements for operators servicing the Port of Melbourne by reducing road congestion in and out of the Port through diversification of how freight is transported over the last mile.

The VTA has long advocated for greater productivity gains at the Port to make it an even more competitive destination for importers and exporters of freight.

Investing in rail in and out of the Port will make transporting freight from distribution centres an even more seamless undertaking, helping to reduce pressure on the road network for motorists and road transport operators whose freight cannot be brought into the Port via rail.

According to the Victorian Government, the works will include a new rail terminal interfacing with the container terminal at East Swanson Dock. Site investigations will begin in March with construction expected to commence in July. The project is set to be completed in 2023.

Upon signing the contracts, Victorian Ports and Freight Minister Melissa Horne said the Government is also supporting the Port Rail Shuttle Network connecting freight hubs in Melbourne’s west, north and south east to the port, new intermodal terminals planned at Truganina and Beveridge, and improvements in the regional rail freight network.

It is important to note these projects are not about a net reduction in freight for road transport operators because attaining productivity and efficiency gains will enable the Port of Melbourne to attract greater volumes of freight, which is good news for road, rail and sea freight operators. As I often say, ships, planes and trains carry freight but only trucks deliver.

With the Australian domestic freight volumes projected to grow by approximately 25 per cent between 2018 and 2040 every type of transport operator will benefit from this growth, but especially road transport operators with road freight volumes projected to grow by around 56 per cent.

Looking at the other modes of transport over the same period, rail freight volumes are projected to grow by around 17 per cent, domestic coastal shipping volumes are projected to remain more or less around 2016 levels, and air freight volumes projected to grow by around 17 per cent to around 393 million tonne kilometres in 2040.

The clear picture emerging from these numbers is that transport continues to be an industry in ascendency, fuelled by population growth, the proliferation of and growing confidence in online shopping.

Contrary to concerns that the COVID pandemic would discourage growth in the sector, the evidence points to the opposite with consumers having to change their behaviour and increase reliance and dependency on home deliveries.

The VTA also welcomed the creation of Ports Victoria, bringing together the Victorian Regional Channels Authority and Victorian Ports Corporation (Melbourne).

It makes sense to consolidate the operations of our ports and waterways bureaucracies, as recommended by the Independent Review of the Victorian Ports System.

We look forward to continuing to work with stakeholders from the ports sector to help Victoria and the Port of Melbourne retain its position as the premier destination for freight.

  • Peter Anderson is the CEO of the Victorian Transport Association.
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