AusRAIL, Market Sectors

Port Phillip deepening is key national project

<p>Dennis O’Neill, of the Australian Council for Infrastructure Development, told the AusRAIL Conference this morning (Monday, November 17) that the deepening of the Melbourne port channels is the "most important infrastructure development in the country" at present.</p> <p>If larger container ships were unable to reach Melbourne it "would be a blow to the industrial heartland of Australia", he said. </p> <p>A $200m investment in the channel deepening would have a cost benefit of around $33bn in 2001 dollars, he said. The estimated cost of the channel project has risen sharply in recent months. </p> <p>Mr O’Neill said that although Australia ranks well in port investment, a lot more needs to be done on intermodal transfers of cargo.</p> <p>Sydney and Melbourne have a congestion cost of $12bn between them, which could be reduced by $6bn with more intermodal facilities, he said. </p> <p>Brian Nye, executive director of the Australasian Railway Association, noted that "if you cannot rail cargo out of the port to a metropolitan rail hub, it does not matter how fast the rail lines to other destinations are". </p> <p>Mr O’Neill said that there is now some "elements of crisis" in Australian infrastructure. </p> <p>Large bulk movements give Australia a tonne per person transport task twice that of the US, and the country cannot afford anything other than world’s best practice, he said.</p> <p> The efficiencies mining companies achieved in their own rail operations needed to be transferred elsewhere in Australia.</p> <p>AusLink was intended to remove "the tension between road and rail funding. But we are getting tense waiting for it", Mr O’Neill said.</p> <p>Although Australia has a mixed public and private investment model, government still "controls the ‘go’ button" because of budget and regulatory influence, he said. </p> <br />