Logistics and development business SALTA Properties believes a rail solution to increased throughput is imperative before the nation’s largest container terminal goes under the hammer.
Salta is one of many stakeholders to lodge submissions regarding the proposed privatisation of the port.
Under the system advocated by the company, containers at the Port of Melbourne would be unloaded at a dedicated on-port rail facility before being railed to strategic inland terminals via fast freight trains and then trucked to final destinations.
The idea would be to ease heavy congestion in the port precinct.
In itself the concept is not new – it was previously mooted during the Bracks/Brumby Labor administration that governed Victoria between 1999 and 2010.
But Salta Properties managing director Sam Tarascio believes it should happen now, rather than wait until the port is in private hands.
Salta itself has land available for terminal development, but speaking with Rail Express affiliate Lloyd’s List Australia, Tarascio said such a scheme would have positive outcomes for everyone: industry, government and the general public.
“So that means we can get a far more efficient container landside distribution logistics system,” Tarascio told Lloyd’s List Australia.
“By doing that, we improve efficiency and improve capacity at the Port of Melbourne.”
He said the scheme had been supported by both sides of politics, but no-one had pushed it to development. “It has come through the Liberal government and back to Labor and all have been supportive,” he said.
“We think now the time is right because all of the intermodal sites are now in place.
“There is infrastructure at the port that if the government acts quickly enough, they can protect for use as the metropolitan intermodal rail terminal.”
Tarascio said there was a need for political will.
“The thing that is causing us frustration is that most of the hard work has been done.
“The Footscray Road overpass and the train paths are in place and there has been money in the budget allocated.”
Rail infrastructure at the Port of Melbourne and minor rail connection works at the inland ports were allocated $58 million in the most recent Victorian State Budget (some $38 million from the Commonwealth).
“But for some reason it has been prioritised as something that should be done post-port sale,” Tarascio reported.
Proceeding with the project before the sale had benefits, he argued.
“It should be done pre-port sale because of all the benefits it brings in terms of certainty to port bidders, potential upside in price to the government plus a whole lot of other benefits including environmental benefits and efficiency benefits.
“So we’re saying it really should be done in advance of the port sale and that is the message we are trying to convey at the moment.”
Environmental benefits are also arguably substantial.
“Based on current volumes, if you could convert the capacity of the network onto trains… you would take 3500 of 5500 trucks that go into the port precinct (daily), you would take them off the roads around the port precinct.
“That has enormous benefits in safety and in reducing pollution and congestion.
“Road maintenance costs are also reduced so there are a whole lot of benefits attached.”
Tarascio said throughput estimates from both SALTA and others suggested a 1.4 million teu (twenty-foot container equivalent) capacity increase through the Port of Melbourne “so that’s very significant based on its current capacity”.
Most of the train paths are available, with dedicated freight lines to the west and north.
A south-eastern service would also operate on the existing passenger line, albeit it would have to operate outside of peak passenger periods.
“We talk to importers, exporters and shippers and there are many businesses that are passionate about it,” Tarascio said.
“Trucking companies, believe it or not, are supportive because of the inefficiencies they face going into the port.
“They would prefer to be at a more efficient inland location where they can get more trips.”
He argued SALTA was well-positioned to contribute to the project.
“We can bring together the terminals in the south-east and the west on land that we have acquired specifically for the purpose and have had it rezoned and connected.
“In the north we are working with AUSTRAK who already have a terminal but just need better connections.
“The reason we’ve gone down this path is our background in both property and logistics over 45 years.”
SALTA Properties chairman Sam Tarascio Snr identified about a decade ago that the Port of Melbourne was going to reach capacity due to landside constraints and started examining how those issues could be effectively resolved.
“Our main priority is seeing the short rail links into the inland ports are funded by government,” the younger Tarascio said.
“Altona has been funded and is completed while we anticipate similar investment will be confirmed soon by government for Dandenong South and at the third inland port site at Somerton.”
This article originally appeared on Rail Express affiliate Lloyd’s List Australia. Read the original article here.