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Rail’s big push to take more trucks off the roads

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The ability of the Inland Rail project – a 1700km freight rail line connecting Melbourne and Brisbane via reigonal Victoria, NSW and Queensland – to dramatically reduce truck movements was a hot topic of discussion at this week’s Inland Rail Conference in Albury-Wodonga.

The conference heard that the promise of the ability 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.

It 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 and boost gross regional product by up to $13.3bn 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 works as a complete system.

The establishment of special activation precincts designed to facilitate the establishment of businesses that will support the efficient operation of Inland Rail in places such as Wagga, Parkes and Narrabri have assisted this outcome, as have the development of intermodals in places such as St Marys and Moorebank in NSW and Toowoomba in Queensland.

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 the cost effective movement of goods to all states of mainland Australia.

However, industry and government needs to work together so that both consumer choice of transport mode for freight and investments in road and rail networks can be optimised, said the Australian Logistics Council (ALC).

The ALC believes that industry needs to ensure that the information is shared so efficient decisions as to how freight can be moved are 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, on a whole of network process,” the ALC said in a media statement.

“Governments need to ensure that planning decisions such as restricting residential encroachment on industrial precincts enable the continuous movement of freight.”

Conference attendees also urged the NSW Government to take urgent action to deliver its rail productivity strategy so that its missed target of rail having a 28 per cent share of freight movement in 2021 is realised.

“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,” said ALC CEO Kirk Coningham.

The outcome needs to be a dedicated freight corridor not mixing with passenger freight.

A dedicated freight rail corridor linking terminal and container linking terminals and container ports exists in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and Perth,” Coningham added.

Delegates also agreed that the 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.

Australasian Railways Association CEO Caroline Wilkie said the conference highlighted the significant benefits that can be achieved by moving more freight on rail.

“This is not just a nation building project, but a community shaping one too. We must make the most of it to maximise the jobs, opportunity and wider community benefits that will flow from Inland Rail,” Wilkie said.

“Mode shift to Inland Rail will help drive lower emissions, improve safety outcomes and ease congestion across the freight network.

“It is essential that policy settings support greater use of rail freight to leverage the capacity and efficiency Inland Rail will provide as the industry meets the needs our growing national freight task.”

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