Construction has begun on Pacific National’s St Marys intermodal terminal, which, when complete, will enable rail freight to reach a mode share of 25 per cent of all containers handled at Port Botany. Read more
Freight and logistics groups have called out the NSW government’s undermining of its own mode share target for containers carried by rail into Port Botany.
The Australian Logistics Council (ALC), Freight on Rail Group of Australia (FORG), Freight and Trade Alliance (FTA), and the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) along with individual port rail freight operators are questioning the wisdom of allowing more high productivity vehicles on Sydney’s roads.
“By incentivising HPVs, government is perversely derailing their own policy to grow rail’s mode share target – at a time when Sydneysiders want safer roads and less traffic congestion and vehicle emissions,” said ALC board member and Qube managing director Maurice James.
The NSW government has been issuing permits for high productivity vehicles to access the Sydney road network and major motorways such as WestConnex. By allowing trucks which can carry two containers to travel within Sydney, this reduces the competitiveness of rail for the metro import container market.
The NSW government has set itself the goal of having 28 per cent of the container trade through Port Botany being handled by rail by 2021, however just 17.6 per cent is currently hauled by rail.
Instead of having each mode compliment each other, with rail for longer distances and trucks for the first and last mile, road transport was monopolising container traffic, with impacts on the local community, said FORG chair and Pacific National CEO Dean Dalla Valle
“Today, many HPVs are doing ‘every mile’ of the freight task in Sydney, placing heightened pressure on traffic congestion, road safety and vehicle emissions,” he said.
Dalla Valle advocated for a measure such as the Western Australian government’s Port of Fremantle container incentive scheme was needed in NSW.
“Prior to introduction of the incentive scheme at the Port of Fremantle in 2006-07, rail mode share was a meagre two per cent. The scheme underpinned growth of rail’s mode share which is now above 20 per cent – the highest in the country,” said Dalla Valle.
Director of the FTA and secretariat to the Australian Peak Shippers Association Paul Zalai said that governments should encourage importers to use rail services.
“Governments must maximise port assets and manage our trade gateways through incentivisation of rail usage for imports to metropolitan sites and importantly, streamlined connectivity to regional areas to cost effectively reach export markets.”
ARA CEO Caroline Wilkie said communities would be feeling the brunt of the lack of rail transport.
“The balance has tipped so far we run the risk of Sydney’s roads being over-run with trucks unless there is urgent action to use more rail.”
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.
As Australia looks to invest in infrastructure as a way to build the country’s economy out of the COVID-19 crisis, the National Infrastructure Summit has arrayed some of the most significant leaders in this space to discuss the opportunities ahead.
Opening the virtual conference on day one, October 14, will be NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, who is looking at an expanding rail infrastructure pipeline in the state, with new Sydney Metro lines recently funded and moving ahead in the contract process.
For a federal view, day two will be opened by Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack. With the conference taking place days after the delivery of what the federal budget, which is widely expecte to include more infrastructure spending, McCormack will highlight these commitments as well as other projects such as Inland Rail that are always underway.
The program also includes discussions between Romilly Madew, CEO of Infrastructure Australia, Marion Terrill, Transport and Cities Program Director, Grattan Institute, and Cathal O’Rouke, who will pick over what impact COVID-19 has had on the infrastructure sector.
With logistics impacted by new trends during COVID and the acceleration of others, Dean Dalla Valle, CEO of Pacific National, and Maurice James, managing director of Qube will be joined by Marika Calfas, CEO of NSW Ports and Brendan Bourke, CEO of the Port of Melbourne to analyses these changes.
Alan Tudge Minister for Cities, Urban Infrastructure and Population and NSW Minister for Water, Property and Housing Melinda Pavey will give ministerial addresses, followed by a Q&A.
Other panels include a focus on infrastructure funding and post-pandemic transport.
This year, the conference will be delivered virtually via online events platform Brella. The platform will provide an opportunity for networking and viewing speaker and sponsor information.
For more information, click here: https://www.nationalpolicyseries.com.au/afr-national-infrastructure-summit/.
The first section of Inland Rail, linking Parkes and Narromine in the NSW Central West, has been completed.
A ceremonial opening of the line was held today, September 15, at Peak Hill, where the first shipment of steel was delivered to begin the project in January 2018.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said that today marked a historic point in the project.
“Inland Rail is nation-building and today recognises a great milestone in this transformational infrastructure,” he said.
“Inland Rail is an investment in Australia – in our economy, in our regions and in the capacity of our future freight network.”
Industry welcomed the breakthrough on this stage of the project, which when complete will link Melbourne and Brisbane by rail in under 24 hours. Chair of the Freight on Rail Group Dean Dalla Valle said this would improve the competitiveness of rail.
“In the past, trucks would do the ‘first and last mile’ between rail terminals and ports, warehouses, distribution centres and manufacturing plants. Today on some key transport corridors – notably between Sydney and Melbourne – trucks are doing every mile,” he said.
“A typical 1,500-metre interstate freight train can haul up to 220 shipping containers – equivalent to approximately 180 B-double return truck trips.”
CEO of the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) Caroline Wilkie said that with this section complete, the rest of the project should soon follow.
“The promise of Inland Rail has already generated significant activity in the Parkes region as the community readies itself for the opportunities better rail freight connections will bring,” she said.
“It is now critical that the project’s swift progress across the rest of the route is supported so even more communities and businesses can benefit in this way.”
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said the 1,700km freight rail link would improve Australia’s entire freight network.
Long-haul rail is cheaper, safer and more reliable than road, that’s why the Australian Government is enhancing the national freight rail network through our investment in Inland Rail,” Cormann said.
“The shift from road to rail builds resilience in our freight network – not only will Inland Rail deliver a long-term freight solution for Australia to meet the needs of our growing population – it is also a critical investment supporting an efficient Australian economy.”
A focus for the Parkes to Narromine section has been the involvement of locals, with 760 contributing to the project and $110 million spent with local businesses. Work on the project included a rebuild of almost 100km of existing rail track and a new 5.3km connection between Inland Rail and the Broken Hill line.
Steel for the project came from South Australia, concrete sleepers were sourced from Mittagong and culverts came from Tamworth. The final ‘golden clip’ which McCormack hammered into place to signify the completion of the project was one of 365,000 sourced from a supplier in Blacktown, Sydney.
Construction is expected to commence on the Narrabri to North Star leg before the end of 2020 with a contractor to be confirmed soon.
State, territory and federal infrastructure and transport ministers have released an enforceable code for the border control of freight movements; however, differences remain.
The code follows the previously released protocol and specifies the measures that states and territories will enforce to ensure freight can keep moving during COVID-19 while ensuring the virus does not spread.
The code aligns previously disparate measures that individual states and territories had adopted, particularly after the outbreak of a second wave of COVID-19 in Victoria, said Assistant Minister for Road Safety and Freight Transport Scott Buchholz.
“Aligning state and territory measures through this Code will help reduce delays in the supply chain, ensuring our freight operators can keep moving safely and efficiently.”
Under the code, states and territories will not require freight workers, including rail crew, to self-isolate when travelling across a border, although workers are advised to keep contacts to a practical minimum.
Other common measures include the requirement for a valid border permit and record keeping by the driver and operator of a freight train of recent contacts.
Australian Logistics Council CEO Kirk Coningham said that the alignment of requirements across borders was welcome.
“The confirmation that workers will not need to go into quarantine or formal self-isolation in any jurisdiction is also especially important in minimising disruptions to freight movement. ALC also welcomes the Code’s commitment to the mutual recognition of COVIDSafe workplans between jurisdictions,” said Coningham.
Testing requirements remained an area of difference. While Queensland has mandated tests on a seven day rolling basis for those coming from hotspots, Victoria will not provide testing for asymptomatic freight workers. In WA, tests are mandated on a seven day rolling basis for those crossing the border and in NSW tests are encouraged. Upon arrival into a state, testing requirements also differ, with testing mandated within 24 hours in South Australia and within 48 hours after entering WA.
Conginham said that the federal government may be required to step in to assist testing in Victoria.
“With the extraordinary pressures on Victoria’s testing capacity at present, it may be appropriate for the Federal Government to provide the state with some additional support to help make this happen, in the interests of national supply chain efficiency,” he said.
“ALC remains deeply concerned that not providing testing for asymptomatic drivers in Victoria will make it extraordinarily difficult for freight workers to meet border requirements imposed by other states and could lead to supply chain disruptions.”
Chair of the Freight on Rail Group (FORG) Dean Dalla Valle also welcomed the protocol and code and the efforts of governments to enable freight to continue moving on rail.
“The only additional measure our sector would strongly recommend in the coming days and weeks is for extra resources to be thrown at more widespread and rapid COVID testing; albeit we appreciate testing regimes in states like Victoria have understandably been stretched to the limit,” he said.
“It was therefore very pleasing to see the new national protocol includes states and territories providing pop up testing facilities at rail freight terminals/depots where they can be accommodated.”
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said the crisis had shown how Australia relied upon the efficient movement of freight.
“The work our freight operators do keeps our shelves stocked and our local economies running,” he said.
“Streamlining the process for crossing borders will make life easier for our freight operators.”
Dalla Valle said that government had to be brought up to speed on the requirements of rail freight.
“For instance, in any given day, numerous train crews and support staff must cross state borders in light vehicles to meet interstate services or return to home base after a shift,” said Dalla Valle.
“For example, a train crew based in Broken Hill will regularly cross in South Australia by car to relieve another crew on the Trans-Australian Railway, and vice-versa. Similarly train crews in south western NSW often cross into northern Victoria by car to meet bulk grain services on the Murray Basin Rail network.”
These realities have led train crews to keep themselves isolated and follow strict hygiene practices. This has enabled rail to continue to move freight across borders and minimise the spread of COVID-19.
A new port shuttle rail service between Fremantle Port and the Perth Freight Terminal in Kewdale could take over 20,000 return truck trips off roads in Fremantle and Perth each year.
Pacific National began the port shuttle rail service last month and is looking to ramp up volumes on the route in September. Up to five port shuttle services are on offer each week, with each train having the capacity to haul 100 shipping containers from the North Quay Rail Terminal at Fremantle Port to Kewdale.
Pacific National CEO Dean Dalla Valle said that there is the potential to move up to 26,000 shipping containers from trucks and onto rail each year with the service.
“Daily train shuttle services between Fremantle Port and Perth Freight Terminal are by far the safest, most efficient and environmentally-friendly way to haul large volumes of freight,” said Dalla Valle.
Getting more freight from Fremantle Port to Kewdale will be essential to avoid Perth’s roads being clogged with large trucks. Container volumes at Fremantle Port are expected to increase to over 1.2 million TEUs by 2031, near double 2016 figures, according to the Perth Freight Transport Network Plan.
Significant increases are also expected in iron and steel imports, agricultural and other machinery, and motor vehicles.
Demand for rail freight is expected to increase by 50 per cent over the next two decades.
The Western Australian government hopes to move more freight via rail through upgrades to infrastructure, such as track duplication, and improved efficiencies on the existing network.
The need for effective and efficient freight networks with rail as the backbone has only come to more prominence since the COVID-19 pandemic.
“For the first time in a long time, people have started to understand and appreciate the finely tuned nature and criticality of our nation’s freight supply chains. They are the arteries supplying our economic lifeblood,” said Dalla Valle.
“Shifting haulage of large volumes of containerised freight from road to rail benefits the broader WA community. It results in fewer road accidents and fatalities, reduced traffic congestion and vehicle emissions, and less wear and tear on local and state roads.”
Freight rail personnel travelling from Victoria to NSW will have to apply for a permit, under new regulations imposed to limit the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).
The new rules were imposed on July 8 and apply to anyone crossing the border from Victoria to NSW. While freight and logistics are exempted from the ban on travelling across the border as they are seen as providing critical services, a permit is required.
A separate permit is being created to clarify conditions for freight and transport operators. This permit will allow freight personnel to travel between NSW and Victoria for the purpose of their duties, as long as their employer has a COVID-19 Safety Plan and does not require them to self-isolate.
Applications for the new freight and transport permit will be live through Service NSW by close of business Thursday, July 9.
When the border closure was initially announced and put in place, freight and logistics operators were required to self-isolate, however chair of the Freight on Rail Group of Australia Dean Dalla Valle welcomed the change to the freight and transport-specific permit.
“Rail maintenance workers, terminal staff and safety compliance officers also need to regularly cross the Victorian-NSW border in cars to service and supervise essential freight train operations,” he said.
“Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Paul Toole and his key agency staff immediately understood and appreciated these nuanced, daily practical requirements of our sector. He also understood the logistical difficulty of forcing hundreds of train crews to self-isolate for 14-days each time they crossed the border on a freight delivery run.”
Australian Logistics Council CEO Kirk Coningham also welcomed the NSW governments creation of the freight transport permit.
“ALC has been working with the NSW government and other industry groups over the past day to rectify the impractical requirement for freight transport workers entering NSW from Victoria to self-isolate for 14 days,” he said.
“We are pleased that the NSW Government is now creating a new permit that will allow our industry’s workforce to continue delivering essential goods to communities without being forced into self-isolation.”
Passenger rail between the two states has been halted, with the XPT service from Sydney terminating at Albury.
According to a statement from the Victorian and NSW agriculture ministers, both governments are working to ensure freight can flow across the border.
“We are working closely with our federal and New South Wales counterparts to ensure freight movements across the border can continue and our agricultural products can be delivered to market shelves across Victoria,” said Victorian Minister for Agriculture Jaclyn Symes.
NSW Minister for Agriculture Adam Marshall said that the governments will ensure that the agricultural supply chain will continue operating.
“Agriculture is critical to both our states and to the country, which is why we’ll be working to make sure there’s minimal to no disruption to this essential sector.”
Rail freight and the wider transport sector has been recognised as critical to ensuring Australians can access essential supplies throughout the COVID-19 period. When other state-borders were closed earlier in 2020, exemptions were granted for freight to continue. Coningham said that these procedures should continue.
“Our industry has supported communities right throughout this pandemic, and it’s important governments return that support by ensuring their COVID rules and regulations are practical, workable and allow us to keep delivering.”
Dalla Valle said that the efficiencies of rail had been clearly demonstrated throughout the pandemic.
“What has become crystal clear during the COVID-19 pandemic is the innate power of rail in being able to transport bulk volumes of freight over large distances and state borders in a safe and efficient manner,” he said.
“For example, a typical interstate goods train up to 1,500 metres in length can haul approximately 220 shipping containers, helping to significantly reduce the number of truck (and hence people) movements across state borders.”
Dalla Valle also said that rail was able to ensure that goods are transported via corridors and facilities that did not come into contact with the public.
Up to 80,000 truck trips will be taken off Sydney’s congested motorways each year, while 230 jobs will be created in Western Sydney, as part of a combined investment value of up to $100 million to shift freight off the city’s road network and onto rail.
The NSW government has approved construction of a new freight hub in the heart of Western Sydney, allowing shipping containers to be hauled by freight trains from Port Botany to St Marys rather than transported by thousands of truck trips on busy Sydney motorways.
Pacific National’s CEO Dean Dalla Valle said St Marys Freight Hub will shift up to 301,000 shipping containers onto rail each year, removing 70,000 to 80,000 truck trips off Sydney’s congested motorways annually, helping to improve road safety and the daily commute of thousands of motorists.
“By shifting more freight onto rail between Port Botany and Western Sydney, the number of truck trips on the congested M4 and M5 motorways will be reduced by 8.7 million kilometres each year, that’s equivalent to 23 trips to the moon,” he said.
Dalla Valle said St Marys Freight Hub will allow more people to live and work locally, rather than commuting around 130 kilometres each day between Western Sydney and Port Botany.
“With Western Sydney’s population forecast to grow by another 1.7 million people by 2036, freight will be in high demand as will the need for new skilled employment in the region,” he said.
Dalla Valle said under the development consent for St Marys Freight Hub, Pacific National has a year to start construction with early works expected in coming months. This project will play an important role in helping to boost the NSW economy as it recovers from the deep shocks of the coronavirus crisis.
“With the COVID-19 global pandemic creating the most testing employment conditions since the Great Depression, the St Marys Freight Hub will create 60 construction jobs during the building phase and more than 170 full-time jobs once fully up and running,” he said.
Dalla Valle said St Marys Freight Hub was ideally located to process large volumes of containerised freight, with many of Australia’s major retailers and wholesalers operating national warehousing and distribution centres within 15 kilometres of the new intermodal facility.
“Imported shipping containers will be hauled from Port Botany to St Marys Freight Hub by train, then transported to nearby warehouses and distribution centres by truck to be unpacked,” he said.
Pacific National has partnered with port logistics operator ACFS who will manage and operate the St Marys Freight Hub and deliver shipping containers the ‘last mile’ by truck to retail and wholesale customers at surrounding warehouses and distribution centres.
ACFS Port Logistics CEO Arthur Tzaneros said St Marys Freight Hub will be a game changer for commercial and industrial areas and facilities in Western Sydney where the majority of large-scale customer warehouses and distribution centres are located.
“The strategically located 43-hectare hub – initially 10-hectares in size – will increase reliability and cost efficiency of freight movements for ACFS customers. It is located outside of Sydney’s road toll zone and will help ensure freight deliveries are not delayed in traffic congestion on the city’s motorways,” he said.
Dalla Valle said contents of shipping containers include everything from food, medical supplies, building products and household items like TVs, washing machines and furniture.
“To put this in perspective, a single shipping container can hold approximately 25,000 rolls of toilet paper, 55,000 cans of tinned food or 1,500 cases of beer,” he said.
Rail freight cannot afford to be left “in the age of steam” chair of the Freight on Rail Group (FORG) Dean Dalla Valle has said in the inaugural industry-led Advanced Train Management System (ATMS) oversight group.
Dalla Valle, who chaired the first meeting, was referring to the adoption of semi-autonomous trucks in the road freight sector, and the need for rail to adopt similar digital technologies such as ATMS.
The group, formed in May, held its first meeting on June 2 and will oversee the rapid rollout of the Australian Rail Track Corporation’s (ARTC) ATMS system.
ATMS will allow for more trains to run on Australia’s freight network by reducing headways and improve safety by allowed for remote control and automatic braking.
Using GPS navigation and mobile internet, ATMS removes the need for trackside infrastructure and operators will communicate with drivers via in-cab equipment. Dalla Valle said that this would shift the public perception of rail freight.
“Innovative in-cab technologies not only help enhance safety and productivity, they also allow us to better monitor the performance of networks. Smart technology to better utilise existing physical assets is often overshadowed by ‘glamorous’ big-money infrastructure projects, albeit the two need to go together.”
Dalla Valle also highlighted that the adoption of ATMS would remove the tendency towards distinct train control systems, a trend that could limit the effectiveness of the rail freight sector as the different state-based gauge networks did in the 20th century.
“Lack of harmonisation of train control systems across the country – the last count is at least 11 different systems are currently in use – is starting to act as a handbrake on safety and efficiency improvements in our sector.”
Now formed, the oversight group will deliver a business case to fast-track the implementation of ATMS. The business case will involve detailing the deployment of ATMS and its integration with existing train control systems including European Train Control System – Level 2 on metropolitan networks. A business case is hoped to be delivered to the Australian government before the end of July.
The system is currently in trials on the Port Augusta – Whyalla rail line and will soon be the primary safe working system on this section of track. The next section will be between Tarcoola and Kalgoorlie, beginning in 2021.
Dalla Valle highlighted how recent events have reinforced the value of a safe, efficient rail freight network, in particular the demands on the freight network during the COVID-19 pandemic. As an Australia-developed system, ATMS will ensure that the efficiencies and advantages of rail freight are continued.
“To help recover from the deep economic shocks of the coronavirus pandemic, Australia must get better at both leveraging and synchronising new and improved technologies in our transport supply chains,” said Dalla Valle.
Members of the ATMS implementation oversight group include:
- Dean Dalla Valle – in his capacity as FORG Chair
- Mark Campbell – ARTC CEO
- Simon Ormsby – group executive strategy and corporate development, ARTC
- Shane Curtin – head of project Management, Aurizon
- Louise Collins – chief of operational planning, Pacific National
- Ian Hall – chief operating officer, OneRail Australia
- Chris Jones – executive general manager, Southern Shorthaul Railroad (SSR)
- Dani Gentle – national safety manager, Qube
- Andrew Williams – chief operating officer rail, SCT Logistics
- Murray Cook – Arc Infrastructure CEO
- Paul Lowney – general manager, network strategy and customer operations, Arc Infrastructure
- Paul Hamersley – corporate affairs and marketing, WatCo Australia
- Kerryn Vine-Camp – first assistant secretary, Major Transport and Infrastructure Division – Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development & Communications
- Dale Merrick – chief operating officer, NSW TrainLink
- Alex Panayi – executive general manager asset management, V/Line