The Australasian Railway Association (ARA) will conduct a research program to grow rail’s share of freight, improve productivity in the sector, and increase rail freight infrastructure investment.
The project is part of the ARA’s strategic plan for rail freight and ports, released on June 25.
CEO of the ARA, Caroline Wilkie, said that there is the need for more freight to be carried by rail.
“A strong and resilient freight network makes the best use of all available modes of transport and there is certainly a case for greater use of rail in the future.”
To get more freight onto rail, the ARA’s rail freight and ports executive committee will promote the value of rail to policy and decision makers, provide-evidence based findings that can guide investment, and assist rail operators to improve their service offering.
“A truly national approach will be essential to make sure we get the most from rail investment and create stronger connections between our cities and regions,” said Wilkie.
The strategic plan outlines clear benefits to shifting freight to rail, noting that a one per cent improvement in freight productivity could generate $8-20 billion in savings for the national economy over 20 years.
In addition, one freight train can replace 110 trucks off roads, and rail is nine times safer than road freight.
Communicating these benefits will be key as Australia’s freight task is expected to grow.
“Our national freight task is expected to rise 35 per cent by 2040 and rail will play a critical part in meeting this demand,” said Wilkie.
Work by the ARA will progress in two phases. The first will identify issues and establish the benefits of rail freight. This will be done by reviewing Australia’s supply chain, to see why freight rail has lost mode share, and updating the 2017 Value of Rail Report to demonstrate the positives of rail.
The second phase will put specific guidance on how to get more freight onto rail into the hands of government and industry. The rail freight and ports executive committee will produce white papers for industry and for government to make the case for greater rail freight.
Alongside this work, the ARA will continue to advocate for rail through policy submissions and involvement in policy development.