While the rail industry is still coming to terms with what impact COVID-19 will have on the sector, the industry’s peak body, the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) has been ensuring that it continues to act as a collaborative voice for the industry.
At a federal government level, ARA CEO Caroline Wilkie has been part of the Commonwealth Department of Infrastructure transport industry teleconference, and is providing a voice for the rail industry at senior governmental levels.
For the industry itself, the ARA has held passenger transport and freight industry teleconferences to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on these sectors. The discussions enabled members to share learnings from direct operator experience.
Further meetings are planned for the Rail Industry Group and Rail Contractors Group.
All ARA working group and committee meetings will continue, however via video-conferencing, with details sent to members.
While face-to-face meetings are temporarily on hiatus, the ARA is coordinating a webinar program, and asking for contribution from members for topics and speakers. The webinars will cover new redevelopments and host debates on pressing topics.
The ARA has communicated that passenger rail operators are experiencing significant reductions in patronage as well as social distancing between customers on networks in Australia and New Zealand. Services have not been reduced, however.
For freight, contractor, and supply chain operators, challenging conditions are being reported, and some stimulus measures may be available.
For freight operators, the Australian Logistics Council has been working with the federal and state governments to ease conditions for logistics operators. NSW, Queensland, and South Australia have announced lifted restrictions for freight movements to allow for supermarkets to restock. These allowances may ease some pressure on logistics companies working further up the supply chain.
“The most pressing challenge for logistics companies at present is getting stock into stores quickly enough to satisfy extraordinarily heightened levels of consumer demand. The existence of curfews that prohibit deliveries during certain hours are a barrier to addressing that challenge,” said ALC CEO Kirk Coningham.
“Australia’s freight and logistics sector is working around-the-clock to deal with the enormous challenges presented by COVID-19 and it is important our governments provide practical support to help the industry’s efforts to support local communities.”