Freight Rail

Dalla Valle calls for reforms across NSW rail freight

Pacific National boss Dean Dalla Valle says the NSW Government must invest in better freight rail access to Port Botany to avoid an exodus of volumes to competing east coast terminals.

Dalla Valle on June 18 called for solid investment in improved rail to Port Botany, to avoid exporters moving more of their container volumes through Melbourne and Brisbane instead.

He said the duplication of the remaining 2.9-kilometre section of single line between Mascot and Botany should be fast-tracked, requiring ongoing close collaboration between the state and the Australian Rail Track Corporation.

He also called for extra passing loops to be built on both the Country Regional Network and the Metropolitan Freight Network to help trains overtake one another and run separately.

Next, the state should remove ‘steam age era’ rules currently limiting the operation of freight trains, Dalla Valle said. Better pricing reform would also help shift more freight from road to rail.

A system giving freight operators greater transparency and certainty of access to tight delivery windows at Port Botany would facilitate a more efficient network.

And by actively supporting the establishment of new intermodal hubs in Western Sydney, the state would be encouraging a high concentration of distribution centres and warehouses, further enhancing efficiency, Dalla Valle added.

“I’m confident the re-elected Berejiklian-Barilaro Government has the will, expertise and funding to fix a longstanding problem for rail freight movements in NSW,” he said.

The PN boss said without real action, running a loaded container freight train over the Great Dividing Range into Sydney would within four years become too inefficient, unreliable and hence costly, for regional exporters to justify not sending it to another port.

“Without timely upgrades to the state’s rail freight network, containerised goods and commodities from the Riverina will be more efficiently hauled to Port of Melbourne, while produce from northern and north-western NSW will be transported to Port of Brisbane,” he said.

He noted that with the development of Inland Rail to connect Melbourne and Brisbane via an inland, regional route, a hub like Pacific National’s future Parkes Logistics Terminal would be consolidating 450,000-plus shipping containers of freight from Central NSW in a single location on an annual basis.

“From Parkes, these containers can make their way to the port of Melbourne or Brisbane. The future Inland Rail will make these haulage operations even more efficient,” he said.

“The NSW Government needs to be acutely aware of these future competitive dynamics. If a freight train delayed by congestion misses a loading window for containers at Port Botany, then exporters suffer financial penalties and a loss of goodwill from clients.”

Pacific National estimates 10 direct and indirect jobs could be lost in NSW for every 1,000 containers which gravitate away from Port Botany and towards ports in Victoria and Queensland.

Dalla Valle noted small positives for freight in NSW, such as NSW Ports investing $120 million to improve ‘on-dock’ rail infrastructure at Port Botany, but he said the government needed to get onboard to facilitate real positive development.

“There are green-shoots popping up throughout the rail supply chain,” he concluded, “it’s time for the NSW Government to work hard with industry to make them flourish.”

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