Draft changes to NSW environmental standards could end regional branch freight lines, warns an alliance of rail industry leaders.
The joint letter signed by freight operators, farmers, and grain growers, and seen by Rail Express, responds to draft NSW EPA standards for rollingstock emissions and noise.
The draft standards set a noise ceiling of 85 decibels, a similar volume to a lawnmower, which would rule out diesel locomotives of the type used to transport grain from silos to port.
The 48 Class locomotives which service these branch lines have a low axel load of 12.5 tonnes, and are able to run on the older steel track which are restricted to locomotive axle loads of 17 tonnes.
The letter outlines that rather than improving environmental outcomes, the restrictions on noise, if implemented would force grain to be transported by trucks. The authors write that this could lead to an extra 25,000 B-double trucks on a “conservative” estimate. This would generate a 500 per cent increase in CO2 emissions compared with rail freight.
“In short, proposed new EPA environmental standards for diesel locomotives will significantly increase net [greenhouse gas] emissions in regional NSW,” write the authors. “This is a perverse outcome.”
Other costs include increased road accidents and fatalities and job losses of locomotive drivers and seasonal silo workers.
Additionally, by forcing grain onto trucks, the cost of exporting grain would increase, placing pressure on farmers’ margins at a time when drought is impacting upon agricultural profitability.
Emissions standards proposed by the NSW EPA also place a restriction on rail freight. While emissions kits can be installed in diesel locomotives, the cost of installing them would be prohibitive and would increase the consumption of diesel by five per cent, increasing greenhouse gas emissions. The weight of these emission kits can also push a locomotive over the axel load threshold.
The signatories to the letter are:
Dean Dalla Valle, Pacific National CEO
Klaus Pamminger, GrainCorp COO
Dick Honan, Manildra Group chairman
Jason Ferguson, Southern Shorthaul Railroad director
Maurice James, Qube Holdings managing director
Matthew Madden, NSW Farmers Association Grains Committee chair
Danny Broad, Australasian Railway Association chair
Geoff Smith, SCT Logistics managing director
Luke Anderson, Genesee & Wyoming Australia CEO
Anthony Jones, LINX Cargo Care Group CEO
Ian Gibbs, CF Asia Pacific / CFCL Australia executive chairman