Below Rail Infrastructure, Freight Rail

On-dock rail upgrades for Port of Melbourne pass final hurdle

Port of Melbourne scheme

The Port of Melbourne will take the next step forward in its Port Rail Transformation Project (PRTP), with the project having met all its preconditions.

The project will begin on June 1, with construction expected to commence before the end of 2020.

The $125 million project will increase the rail infrastructure at the port and provide a new rail operating framework inside the port.

Overall, the project hopes to increase the amount of containers moved by rail, improving operations at the port, said Brendan Bourke, CEO of Port of Melbourne.

“The Port of Melbourne has listened to industry feedback and is responding with a solution that meets the need for increased transparency in rail access arrangements, improved port access and greater capacity,” said Bourke.

“The project embraces these principles and supports the government’s Port Rail Shuttle Network.”

Port of Melbourne has conducted an Expressions of Interest process, and will next begin a Request for Proposal for the infrastructure works required.

CEO of the Australian Logistics Council (ALC) Kirk Coningham, said that the announcement that the project will proceed is welcome for the industry.

“Moving more freight by rail can deliver a range of potential benefits for industry participants, for exporters and for local communities. The construction of new on-dock rail infrastructure at Swanson Dock East will help to realise those benefits.”

By delivering on-dock rail, congestion around the port can be reduced, benefiting both industry and local communities, said Caroline Wilkie, CEO of the Australasian Railway Association (ARA).

“Improving rail access is not just good for the economy, allowing a more efficient transport of containers, but it will reduce road congestion and pollution around the port.”

Coningham also noted that the work will improve movement in the surrounding areas.

“The PRTP will improve congestion around the Port of Melbourne, which is critical for logistics companies moving freight into and out of the port, and also for improving the liveability of nearby residential communities,” said Coningham.

“The PRTP will also help agricultural exporters moving their goods through the Port of Melbourne by reducing their ‘last mile’ costs.”

Both Coningham and Bourke noted that progressing these infrastructure works while the state and country is recovering from coronavirus (COVID-19) will help increase growth.

“The development of significant new freight infrastructure such as that now being progressed by the Port of Melbourne will also help stimulate economic and employment growth, which will be vital in helping Australia to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Coningham.

“A rail solution for the port will play a vital role in Victoria’s post-COVID economic recovery with a large construction project supporting jobs as well as supporting the more efficient movement of freight and contributing to a more productive supply chain for decades to come,” said Bourke.

Once the PRTP is complete, the Port of Melbourne hopes to connect Webb Dock to the rail network, which is expected to handle half of Victoria’s export container trade by 2050. Coningham highlighted that governments must preserve the rail corridor for this development.

“It will also be crucial for the federal and Victorian governments to work cooperatively to preserve corridors and make investments that will also permit Webb Dock to be connected to Victoria’s rail freight network.”

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