In the last two years Australian freight rail movements increased a record 18% and passenger trips grew by more than 6%, according to the 2010 Rail Industry report.
Released last week by the Australasian Railway Association (ARA), the report shows that freight rail movements increased to 853.5 million tonnes per annum, primarily due to escalated demand for iron ore and coal.
From 2007/08 to 2009/10, rail freight moved an additional 130 million tonnes: an average increase of more than 356,000 tonnes per day.
As at 2009/10, iron ore contributed 48.3% of the national rail tonnes followed by coal at 37.3%, other bulk products 6.7%, sugar 3.2%, bauxite 2.1%, non bulk products 2.1% and steel 0.3%. Non-bulk traffics declined by 11.6% in 2008/09 and by 4.8% in 2009/10.
Passenger trips increased to 769.9 million annual journeys, largely a result of increased population growth, continued improvements in safety, overhaul of rolling stock on major services and improved service planning and scheduling.
During 2007/08 to 2009/10, rail passenger journeys increased by 43.5m passenger journeys, an average of more than 120,000 passengers daily.
However, for the first time since the survey commenced seven years ago, annual national rail journeys declined in 2009/10 by 3.2 million journeys to 769.9 million journeys.
According to the report, this was predominantly due to the effects of the global financial crisis and network capacity constraints.
Since 2002/03 national journeys have grown by 27% or 163.6m journeys.
ARA chief executive Bryan Nye said growth across Australia’s freight and passenger rail was a clear reminder to policy makers that future planning and investment in rail infrastructure was essential if Australia is to cope with the continued demand for rail.
“Every one million tonnes of rail freight growth requires one new trains set, more tracks, more engineers and more technicians. It is the same on the passenger networks. While every jurisdiction is purchasing new rolling stock, these will only meet today’s increase in capacity. Much more will be needed in the future, especially if we are going to replace the 30-year-old locomotives on the tracks today,” Nye said.
Lack of reliable transport data
According to the ARA, attaining reliable transport data in Australia was  a "significant issue", which has severely undermined transport policy and planning.
“The rail industry has taken it upon itself to organise and collate fundamental data for the transport policy and planning process, providing a reliable source of rail data in Australia,” Nye said, adding that industry is seeking an equally robust set of publicly available road data figures to ensure future transport planning is based on quality information and sound analysis.
“We do not know what is being transported on our roads or where good are going. Multi-billion dollar road investment decisions are based on gut instinct. This is irresponsible. Government and road transport agencies need to provide adequate road data so that educated investment decisions can be made for Australia,” Nye said.
The 2010 Rail Industry report is the seventh annual report to be commissioned by the ARA.
To download visit: www.ara.net.au