AusRAIL, Market Sectors

State must act to save Blayney rail services: FCL

<p>In excess of 100 extra trucks will be forced to cross the Blue Mountains every day, unless the New South Wales Government acts decisively to avert the cessation of rail services from Blayney to Sydney’s ports, according to FCL Interstate Transport Services.</p> <p>FCL managing director Bill Gibbins has called for the State Government to lift the acess restrictions and curfew on its services to the ports to improve their efficiency.</p> <p>FCL Blayney, Australia’s largest inland container port, services multinational export industries, transporting 55,000 teu a year to Sydney’s ports.</p> <p>Since 1994, the company has invested more than $10m in its Blayney rail operation, and a total of more than $21m in Central West NSW.</p> <p>Mr Gibbins said first and foremost the NSW Government needs to address rail track access and curfew restrictions that result in a 580 km round trip between Blayney and Sydney taking longer than 24 hours.</p> <p>"People have got to recognise the lesser of two evils," Mr Gibbins said. "One train at night or 100 trucks all night long on the Great Western Highway to Sydney.</p> <p>Mr Gibbins said at present two separate sets of wagons and locomotives are required to maintain a daily service, when only one set is required if these issues are addressed.</p> <p>"In excess of $10m of rolling stock assets is currently required to meet Blayney’s current service requirement, which is not sustainable," he said.</p> <p>FCL Blayney’s key customers include Masterfoods, Nestle, Electrolux, Henning Harters and Best Western Grain.</p> <p>It was a setback to FCL when Pacific National said on July 20 it would cease its port container services in and out of Port Botany so it could divert its locomotive and wagon assets to the Hunter Valley.</p> <p>However, after Mr Gibbins’s negotiations, Pacific National chief executive Stephen O’Donnell has granted a moratorium on both the closure of services on October 1, and in the meantime a proposed 66% hike in linehaul rates on August 1.</p> <p>Pacific National and FCL agreed that neither the closure of the service, nor the rate increase, would be implemented without 30 days’ notice.</p> <p>Mr Gibbins agreed to work with Pacific National to endeavour to bring about a cost effective scheduling of rolling stock, enabling a reasonable return on investment for both parties.</p> <p>Mr Gibbins said since the sale of Freightcorp to private interests, all government Community Service Obligation (CSO) subsidies have been phased out.</p> <p>"As a result of no CSO subsidies, transport rates need to reflect the real cost of running trains," he said. "This is going to result in increases of around 20-25%, bringing rail rates almost level with those of road rates.</p> <p>"However, to cap rate increases at 20-25%, at least $500,000 will need to be invested in extending the Blayney Terminal to accommodate 100 teu trains."</p> <p>Mr Gibbins said critical to the keeping central west NSW freight on rail is FCL customers’ acceptance of rate increases.</p> <p>Mr Gibbins said customer acceptance is not implausible because the Blayney terminal enables exporters to interface with shipping companies on a more "user-friendly" basis than road transport.</p> <p>"Once they get over the initial shock, I am hoping they will still see value in rail," Mr Gibbins said.</p> <br />