The Freight on Rail Group has called upon the federal government to fund the resumption of the Murray Basin Rail Project.
The coalition of rail freight businesses, chaired by Dean Dalla Valle said that with the Victorian government committing $48.8m in funding, the Commonwealth needed to come to the table as well.
“This commitment from the Victorian government is welcome – as a nation we need to get this rail freight network humming again. Given we could see another bumper crop next year, industry encourages the Commonwealth to also commit extra funding to help get the network back on track,” said Dalla Valle.
Getting the project back on track would improve the productivity of the Victorian rail network, and with forecast bumper grain harvests, the need for investment is critical.
“Due to well-documented problems with rail infrastructure in the basin, I’ve heard almost 70 percent of export grain this season will be transported by truck to Victorian ports – this is an extremely poor outcome for society; and certainly not good for regional councils already struggling to repair and maintain large road networks,” said Dalla Valle.
Since stalling in 2019, the partially completed project has led to a decline in freight carried by rail in the region. Groups including farmers, grain haulers, and now freight rail businesses are highlighting the importance of an efficient freight network.
“Inefficient transport supply chains corrode the core fundamentals of state and national economic productivity; destroying jobs and increasing cost of living pressures for millions of Australians,” said Dalla Valle.
The opportunity to reinvigorate the Murray Basin rail network had positives on a number of fronts, said Dalla Valle, beyond agricultural productivity. Moving more freight by rail would make roads safer for passenger vehicle by reducing accidents and wear and tear on roads. Additionally, as rail freight is less emissions intensive than road freight, Australia could reduce transport emissions. According to a 2017 Deloitte Access Economics report, for every kilometre of freight transport, rail produces 16 times less carbon pollution than road freight, and 14 times less accident costs.
Rebuilding the network would also provide a boost for regional economies and the Australian supply chain.
“Just imagine all the Australian-made steel that will be used in upgrading and standardising the network with new track – additional support for this project should be of the highest national priority,” said Dalla Valle.