Engineering, Environment and Sustainability, Freight Rail

Primer: 6 things to know about Moorebank

Moorebank Artist's Impression: MIC

The Moorebank Intermodal Freight Precinct was given the green light on Thursday. Here’s six key takeaways from the deal.


1. Moorebank will be a significant freight precinct

The agreement signed this week between the Aurizon and Qube joint venture (SIMTA) and the government’s Moorebank Intermodal Company (MIC) combines 158 hectares (ha) of Commonwealth land with 83ha of SIMTA land, for a total precinct area of 241ha (2.41 square kilometres).

MIC SIMTA land at Moorebank. Graphic: Google / Jim Wilson / Oliver Probert
Graphic: Google / Jim Wilson / Oliver Probert

Combined, the sites create a precinct “large enough to handle freight trains and onsite warehousing,” the MIC said on Thursday.


2. It is in a prime location, according to research

The MIC said the chosen site is the only one that ticked all the boxes during past research.

“The Moorebank precinct has unique characteristics that make it ideal for an intermodal,” the MIC said on Thursday, explaining that the site is next to existing road and rail infrastructure in the Southern Sydney Freight Rail Line and the M5 Motorway.

On top of the ideal size and location of Moorebank, there was the obvious added benefit that the site was ready for development.

“No other identified site has all these characteristics,” MIC said, “making the precinct a once-in-a-generation opportunity.”

Moorebank will be connected to the Southern Sydney Freight Line via a railway line that enters the precinct at its Southern Boundary.


3. Healthy starting capacity, with room to grow

Moorebank will be built to have an initial capacity of 250,000 TEU per annum, from an original opening date of late 2017. This capacity will initially be for the import/export (IMEX) portion of the precinct.

Alongside this IMEX terminal will be an interstate freight terminal, which will open in 2019 with an initial capacity of 250,000 TEU.

The IMEX terminal will be designed so it can be ramped up to 1.05 million TEU per annum, while the interstate terminal will be able to expand to a total capacity of 500,000 TEU per annum, according to the MIC.

The precinct will ultimately house 850,000 square metres (about 35% of the total site) of warehousing, where containers can be unpacked before delivery to their final destination.


4. Rail will reduce future road congestion

The rail-focused nature of the site is aimed at reducing the future growth of road transport at Port Botany, the state’s busiest container port.

The IMEX side of the facility will ultimately result in 60,000km less travel by trucks every day on Sydney’s roads, MIC said. This is achieved by replacing some of Port Botany’s inbound and outbound traffic with rail.

“The terminal will enable more freight to make part of its journey by rail,” MIC said. “This will reduce the growth in container trucks travelling between Port Botany and west/south Sydney, and between Sydney and other capital cities or regional areas.”

While around 5000 containers travel to and from Port Botany by road each day, throughput at the port is predicted to be as high as 19,000 containers a day in 2030.

“As part of a national intermodal network, Moorebank will get more interstate freight on rail, taking advantage of the economic and environmental benefits of rail, and recent improvements to the national freight rail network,” MIC said.


5. Environmental and social considerations

The rail line into Moorebank will join the main freight line near the existing Glenfield Waste Facility, and will enter the terminal from the south. Through this approach, MIC said, trains will enter the site as far as possible from nearby homes.

Noise pollution will also be reduced through the rail connection being built with wider turns, reducing the potential noise made by trains. Trains will also be loaded and unloaded in the centre of the combined site, in a further effort to reduce visual and noise pollution for surrounding residents.

In addition, MIC said: “Studies show the precinct will make only a small contribution to airborne pollutants and background pollution will remain well within government guidelines. There will be no measurable health impact of diesel emissions from the precinct.”

On top of these considerations, Moorebank is being built by the bank of the Georges River, and MIC will “enhance and preserve” this vegetation as part of a biodiversity offset model.


6. Private funding key to development

The cherry on top of the Moorebank development (for the government at least) is it’s costing them a lot less than prior estimates.

We already know the current Federal Government isn’t a big fan of rail development as a whole, so with the original potential price tag for a hub at Moorebank estimated at almost $1 billion in government spending, Canberra will no doubt be pleased with the new agreement.

SIMTA will facilitate or provide most of the capital investment for the project, with the Aurizon/Qube joint venture set to contribute roughly $1.5 billion over the first 10 years.

“SIMTA will bear most of the revenue risk of the volume of freight using the terminal,” MIC said.

The Commonwealth, meanwhile is providing just $370 million, with its money going towards the rail connection, biodiversity offsets, and preparation of Commonwealth land – resulting in very little revenue risk, the MIC said.


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