Freight Rail

Extra freight trains threaded through the Sydney network

Container rail into Port Botany. Photo: Sydney Ports

Extra freight services have been running across the Sydney network to service the increased demand for essential supplies and to ensure Australia’s exports get to ports.

Chair of the Freight on Rail Group of Australia, Dean Dalla Valle, highlighted that by working with the Transport for NSW Freight Access and Performance Unit and the Rail Operations Centre (ROC) extra capacity on Sydney’s normally busy network has been opened up.

“Freeing up extra paths on Sydney’s rail network, notably for goods trains, is a smart, quick and cost-efficient way to help support and amplify critical freight activity in the economy.

“It means freight trains can access more paths during peak morning and afternoon periods, which normally would not be available, to better service the transport supply chain.”

Under normal conditions, freight trains cannot run on the Sydney network between 6am to 10am and 3pm to 7pm due to the priority being given to commuter services, and access is limited on the shoulder of these peaks. In all, there is only 10 hours of access for freight trains to vital ports such as Botany, Kembla, and Newcastle.

Access to Port Botany, in particular, is restricted, being located just south of the Sydney CBD and accessible via some of the most heavily congested lines in the network. However, Dalla Valle noted, the Sydney network is a critical hub for freight in NSW.

“For example, each day thousands of import and export shipping containers arriving or leaving Port Botany pass through key rail depots and terminals at Chullora, Enfield, Minto, Cooks River and Moorebank,” he said.

“Similarly, goods trains running between Sydney and Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth have to be threaded through the Flemington rail junction – rail’s equivalent of passing through the eye of a national logistics needle.

“Likewise, grain originating from central west NSW to be converted into food and industrial ingredients like flour, starch, and ethanol at Manildra Group’s Nowra facility is hauled via the Flemington junction to eventually join the South Coast-Illawarra railway line,” said Dalla Valle.

With demand for household goods increasing and key supplies such as ethanol for handsantiser more essential than ever, having easy access to the Sydney network is critical for the national supply chain to function smoothly.

“Every grocery item delivered to a supermarket, every batch of medical supplies made available to hospitals, every tonne of grain delivered to a flour mill or ethanol plant, every tonne of coking coal delivered to a steel mill, or every tonne of thermal coal delivered to a power station to provide baseload electricity to Australian cities and towns – all this counts,” said Dalla Valle.

As the economy starts to get going again, having smooth and efficient supply chains will only become more critical, said Dalla Valle.

“Economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic will benefit greatly from essential rail freight services having greater access in the future to the Sydney Trains’ network.

“Our proud sector helps underpin a vital and finely tuned component of our economy. If we don’t plug away 24/7, 365 days of the year, rain, hail or shine then the arteries of our economic trade will quickly clog up,” he said.

To limit the possibility of any spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) strict protocols have been put in place at depots, terminals, and maintenance facilities.

The Freight on Rail Group of Australia is made of up major rail freight businesses including Pacific National, Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC), One Rail Australia, Aurizon, Qube Holdings, SCT Logistics, Arc Infrastructure, WatCo Australia and Southern Shorthaul Railroad (SSR).

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