AusRAIL, Market Sectors

Freightliner eyeing off Hunter coal haulage operation

<p>UK rail operator Freightliner has confirmed its continued interest in making a move into the Australian freight market amid speculation the heavy-haulage specialist is sizing up an opportunity to haul coal in the Hunter Valley. </p> <p>A spokeswoman for Freightliner said the company was still &#8220looking at a number of overseas opportunities, one of which is Australia&#8221, but the spokesman would not confirm if Freightliner had begun sourcing rolling stock.</p> <p>Rail industry analysts were divided about how serious Freightliner was about a move into the Hunter, but several speculated that it could be a chance to get a foothold in Australia ahead of possible private sector involvement with QR.</p> <p>QR has been under pressure to lift its Queensland coal chain performance, intensified by claims that Asciano-owned Pacific National is wooing some of the state’s heavy-hitting coal producers.</p> <p>PN has long wanted to compete in the Queensland coal market but is only now seen as a possible threat, particularly as it continues a successful schedule of interstate general freight services linking to Brisbane.</p> <p>Should Freightliner establish itself as the third coal haulage operator in the Hunter, industry insiders said it could give it sufficient leverage to weigh up any possible involvement with QR.</p> <p>Speculation about the potential part or full privatisation of QR was fuelled by moves by the Queensland Government to review the performance and structure of the organisation.</p> <p>QR is on the look out for private sector partners, but it is considered unlikely that Freightliner would want to share responsibilities for Queensland’s coal haulage.</p> <p>Freightliner’s two greatest strengths are heavy haulage and intermodal development &#8211 two markets in the midst of a boom in Australia.</p> <p>The company is the second largest rail freight operator in the UK, holding about 20% of the country’s rail freight market, with an annual turnover of close to $600m.</p> <p><em>Rail Express</em> reported in April that Freightliner had established a holding company in New South Wales, known as Freightliner Australia Pty Ltd and a temporary web page,</p> <p>The move is synonymous with a similar reconissance mission conducted before Freightliner entered the Polish market in 2005.</p> <p>At the time, Freightliner established a subsidiary in Poland, but the company took until May this year to sign track access agreements giving it access to the network.</p> <p>Freightliner only launched its Polish operation earlier this month with a contract to haul coal to Kozienice Power Station, according to a <em>Thomson Financial</em> report.</p> <p>Freightliner invested in new rolling stock, including seven locomotives and 432 wagons.</p> <p>The company has typically been reluctant in the past to recycle old rolling stock and would likely source new wagons from Poland or modify US wagons for use in Australia. </p> <br />