Austrac suspending operations on Saturday

<p>NSW operator Austrac is suspending its network services from Saturday (August 3) after a long struggle to stem losses and make the business viable.</p> <p>It is proposing to stand down its staff from the second week of the month.</p> <p>The rail operation went into administration in August 2000 and ceased scheduled operations, then including a Port Botany Shuttle.</p> <p>Austrac has lobbied the New South Wales Government for a number of years to improve rail competition. </p> <p>It claimed subsidies paid to FreightCorp made it impossible for Austrac to compete on a level playing field.</p> <p>The company hoped FreightCorp’s sale would change this situation, but said the anticipated improvements have not emerged.</p> <p>Austrac chairman Andrew Buckland said: "It is now clear that changes in the competitive environment will take substantially longer to occur, as a result of certain anti-competitive features of the sale agreement. </p> <p>"These features will, in the short to medium term, make it more difficult for small private operators like Austrac to successfully compete in network operations."</p> <p>The company is examining other opportunities for growth such as restructuring to focus on hook and pull services, crewing for other operators and leasing its rollingstock.</p> <p>Earlier this month Austrac met its unsecured creditors and entered into a deed of arrangement.</p> <p>The agreement will see Austrac pay its creditors back around 30 cents in the dollar within the next two years.</p> <p>Mr Buckland said Austrac is in &#8220survival mode&#8221. It has ceased its scheduled network rail business in NSW and between Sydney and Melbourne and is now conducting only low-risk charter work.</p> <br />