AusRAIL, Market Sectors

Regional councils struggle with state government inertia over rail freight

<p>A group of southeast Australian regional councils that have battled for rail freight network improvements for nine years, wants an advisory council established given that state government pledges have made little headway.</p> <p>The Alliance of Councils for Rail Freight Development said its lobbying resulted in the Victorian government announcing a four-year rail gauge standardisation program in 2001, which was to have been completed in 2005.</p> <p>But the Alliance has said that, to date, there has been no conversion of the state’s broad gauge rail track to standard gauge and connectivity to ports is restricted.</p> <p>The Alliance &#8211 representing 24 rural and regional local government councils in central and western Victoria and southern New South Wales &#8211 was formed in 1997 due, it has said, to growing frustration with the lack of rail connectivity in the southern states and the lack of investment in Victoria’s antiquated 19th century rail freight system. </p> <p>"We see that as a conduit to the government to ensure that we can monitor progress on rectifying some of these problems, that would not just be local government representation, that would also contain representation from other stakeholders in the rail freight industry," alliance chairman Geoff White said, the ABC reported yesterday (Monday, September 2). </p> <p>And state parliamentary transport secretary Carlo Carli told the alliance yesterday that the government "could not give a blanket commitment" to retaining all lines, the <em>Age</em> reported.</p> <p>Mr Carli admitted that unlike passenger rail transport, there was no 10-year plan for rail freight and the government was having "difficult times" negotiating for improvements with Pacific National, which holds a 45-year lease over the intra-state rail network. </p> <p>The Kennett government granted the lease, the newspaper said.</p> <p>The Victorian government was working with Pacific National and other groups to restore the network and was committed to an integrated transport system, Mr Carli said. </p> <p>This would result in more intermodal terminals to transfer freight from road to rail in regional areas.</p> <p>"Rail’s place in the sun is now," Mr Carli said.</p> <br />