Two major contracts have been awarded for the construction of the $400 million Port Botany Rail Line Duplication.
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 design and construct tender for the Port Botany Rail duplication has been released to the three shortlisted contractors.
The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC), which is leading the project, has released the documentation to CPB Contractors, Laing O’Rouke Construction Australia, and John Holland, who were shortlisted in January.
Once complete, the $400 million federally funded project will allow for more freight to be transported to and from Port Botany via rail, said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack.
“The Botany Rail Duplication will upgrade and duplicate the current single freight rail track between Mascot and Botany to increase the capacity of Sydney’s freight rail network while bolstering operational efficiency, flexibility and reliability for freight customers,” he said.
“This will create more than 400 jobs during construction and provide a welcome boost to all the hard-working local businesses who use the rail line to get their products to markets.”
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said the project would enable a reduction in trucks travelling through local roads in Sydney.
Australia’s freight requirements are set to grow significantly over the coming decades. While this is great news for the industry and the Australian economy, it will place increasing pressure on our roads,” he said.
“I look forward to this transformative project getting underway so that Sydney, New South Wales and our national supply chain can reap the benefits.”
The Cabramatta Loop Project tender, which will allow freight trains to pass each other on the Southern Sydney Freight Line, will be released separately.
The Port Botany Rail duplication project was recently approved by the NSW government in its fast track process.
The project was also added to the Infrastructure Australia Infrastructure Priority List in August, 2020, recognising the need for greater freight rail capacity to and from Port Botany.
The NSW government has given planning approval for the Botany Rail Duplication and the Cabramatta Passing Loop.
Both projects will be delivered by the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) with shortlisted contractor expected to be invited to tender shortly, Peter Winder, group executive Interstate Network at ARTC.
“These two landmark projects will encourage a shift in freight share from road to rail, to help rail carry more of Sydney’s freight growth and associated traffic congestion and support growth in the containerised freight task and port-shuttle rail services between Port Botany and intermodal terminals such as at Enfield, Moorebank, Minto and Chullora.”
The project will allow for freight trains up to 1,300 metres in length to pass between Cabramatta and Warwick Farm and enable Port Botany to handle increasing freight loads by rail, said Minister for Transport and Roads Andrew Constance.
“As the state’s largest container port, the efficient operation of Port Botany is critical. Forecasts predict a whopping 77 per cent increase in the amount of freight it handles from 14.4 million tonnes in 2016 to 25.5 million tonnes by 2036.”
The dual projects were one of a number of NSW rail projects that received fast-tracked planning approvals. According to Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Paul Toole the projects will allow more freight to be carried by rail.
“These projects are crucial because more freight is moved on rail lines and congestion is busted with fewer trucks on our roads,” he said.
“This project will not only provide new rail infrastructure but will inject around $400 million into the economy and create around 500 local jobs during construction.”
The Cabramatta Loop will be completed by mid-2023 and the Botany Rail Duplication will be completed by late 2024.
Australian Logistics Council CEO Kirk Coningham welcomed the announcement.
“Duplicating the remaining 2.9-kilometre single track section of the Botany Line between Mascot and Botany and constructing a new passing loop on the Southern Sydney Freight Line at Cabramatta will inject greater efficiency and capacity into the freight network and help to meet NSW’s growing freight demands,” he said.
“The delivery of these projects by the Australian Rail Track Corporation will further encourage freight owners to transport more containers by rail and will build on significant investments NSW Ports has already made to increase port-side rail capacity.”
Rail will be a critical component of a new strategy to increase the efficiency of the empty container supply chain in NSW.
The current inefficiencies of the empty container supply chain cost the NSW economy an extra $49 million per year, according to the NSW Empty Container Supply Chain Study, released this week by Transport for NSW (TfNSW).
As most containers come to Australia full and then leave empty, ensuring that unloaded containers leave their final destination and are turned to port efficiently is a major concern for the freight and logistics industry.
A current lack of capacity at empty container parks will lead to a shortfall of 12,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) by 2031.
The study recommends working with industry, including rail transport operators, to implement a working group to address these issues and increase the use of rail for returning empty containers to stevedore terminals. Other recommendations include accelerating work to enable rail to play a more significant role in the empty container supply chain.
According to a TfNSW spokesperson, the industry working group is currently being established under the Port Transport Logistics Taskforce.
“The working party will aim to support industry to introduce measures to improve efficiencies in the empty container supply chain, including examining options for increasing the use of rail. Operational and administrative solutions will be considered as a priority as part of this work in consultation with industry.”
Some options that the report has suggested include greater bi-directional movement of full and empty containers via rail. This will be needed to enable Port Botany to handle the expected growth in containerised freight, which will rise from 2.29 million TEUs to 7 million by 2040. Rail is expected to handle a much greater proportion of freight, with the aim to handle 28 per cent by 2021.
“Infrastructure improvements will be needed to enable the increased use of rail at Port Botany, including reforms to improve rail window utilisation and the duplication of the Port Botany rail line,” said the TfNSW spokesperson. “Transport for NSW is working with NSW Ports and port operators to understand and monitor industry proposed solutions to improve rail windows at Port Botany.”
Woolworths has agreed to be a new, major tenant at the Moorebank Logistics Park in south west Sydney.
The supermarket giant has partnered with Qube, which is the manager of the Moorebank Logistics Park, to build a national and regional distribution centre across over 75,000sqm.
Qube managing director Maurice James said that a key advantage of the site was its rail connection.
“We’re delighted Woolworths has recognised the significant competitive advantages available to tenants at the Moorebank Logistics Park,” he said.
“The benefits of railing containers direct from Port Botany to a terminal co-located with warehousing across a site the size of the Sydney CBD will deliver Woolworths time and cost efficiencies.”
The recently developed Moorebank Logistics Park has a direct rail link to Port Botany and there are plans to develop an interstate rail terminal in the future. When complete, 1.5 million TEUs will be able to be transported between Port Botany, Moorebank, and the national rail freight network.
Moving more freight via rail will reduce heavy truck movement on Sydney roads, with Woolworth’s estimating that rail access will remove least 26,000 truck movements in NSW per year.
Australian Logistics Council CEO Kirk Coningham said the agreement between Qube and Woolworths showed the benefits of investing in rail.
“ALC has been a long-time advocate for the development of the Moorebank Logistics Park and its direct rail connection to Port Botany. This allows more freight to be moved via rail, helping to alleviate road congestion, which in turn delivers environmental benefits through reduced emissions.”
According to Qube, rail from Botany to Sydney’s south west enables containers to be delivered to the warehouse, unpacked and dispatched on the same day as the container is unloaded at the port.
Woolworths Group CEO Brad Banducci said that locating at Moorebank would improve the company’s operations.
The new facilities will help us improve on-shelf product availability with faster restocking, reducing congestion in stores, and enabling a safer work environment for our teams with less manual handling.”
The move to Moorebank is a consolidation of Woolworth’s distribution sites at Yennore, Mulgrave, and parts of Minchinbury.
Both the national and regional distribution centres are subject to NSW government planning approval and are expected to open in 2023 and 2024, respectively.
Infrastructure Australia will add the Port Botany Rail Line Duplication and Cabramatta Passing Loop project to the body’s Infrastructure Priority List.
The recognition signals the project as a significant one for not just the rail freight network, but wider, national supply chains. Chief Executive of Infrastructure Romilly Madew highlighted how the project is critical.
“Port Botany handles 99 per cent of NSW’s container demand, making it a critical international gateway for Australia and a backbone asset for economic product within Sydney and New South Wales,” she said.
“With demand only increasing, it is vital that Port Botany maintains throughput capacity to meet container growth over the long term.”
The dual projects provide for an increase in the capacity of rail to deliver containers to Port Botany. The project involves duplicating 2.9km of the line and constructing a passing loop at Cabramatta on the Southern Sydney Freight Line.
Moving more containers by rail will also benefit surrounding suburbs and road networks, said Madew.
“Currently more than 80 per cent of containers to and from Port Botany are transported by road.
“This worsens congestion on the Sydney road network, particularly in and around the already constrained Port Botany precinct, which includes Sydney Airport and the M5 Motorway.”
The project would further improve supply chains by increasing capacity on the Southern Sydney Freight Line and the Port Botany rail line, which are forecast to exceed capacity by 2023 and 2026, respectively.
A number of intermodal terminals are also planned for the Sydney basin, including at St Marys and a future site near Western Sydney Airport, and demand for greater rail capacity is also being generated by the Moorebank Intermodal Terminal and the Enfield Intermodal Terminal.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack welcomed Infrastructure Australia’s determination on the $400 million project.
“It’s great to see job-creating infrastructure and freight initiatives such as these recognised as priority projects by Infrastructure Australia, particularly at a time when getting goods to consumers is so essential.”
An upgrade of the existing line to Port Botany was also recently completed.
John Fullerton, CEO of the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC), which is overseeing the project, highlighted that efficient supply chains are more important than ever.
“We have all seen how critical our transport and freight sector is during the current COVID-19 crisis.
“These two projects are essential to helping Sydney, and New South Wales, in meeting its future freight demands. Containers are expected to grow from 2.3 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) to 8.4m TEUs by 2045. Rail can and needs to carry more of the freight task, not only through Port Botany – but across the country.”
CEO of NSW Ports, Marika Calfas, said that work should begin as soon as possible on the duplication and passing loop.
“Having been under development for many years, this project is ‘shovel ready’ and should be progressed as a priority to deliver long term port supply chain productivity benefits and provide needed economic stimulus for NSW.”
Calfas highlighted that Port Botany is hoping to significantly increase the number of containers moved by rail.
“Port Botany is the only container port in Australia with on-dock rail at all three of its container terminals and, together with the stevedores, we are making significant investments to increase port-side rail capacity to meet this goal. The first stage of investment of $190 million commenced in 2019 and will be complete by 2023. This will double existing rail capacity at Port Botany.”
CEO of the Australian Logistics Council (ALC), Kirk Coningham, said that the organisation is ready to progress the project.
“ALC hopes governments will now work with industry to expedite the delivery of this priority project, to strengthen the efficiency of our supply chains and help provide economic stimulus in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
In January this year, ARTC announced that it had shortlisted three contractors for the Botany Rail Duplication project, and that John Holland has been shortlisted for the Cabramatta Loop project.
The $190 million ‘on-dock’ rail project at Patrick Terminals – Sydney AutoStrad at Port Botany is entering its next progression phase of construction.
The on-dock’ rail project, undertaken in conjunction with NSW Ports, is expected to increase rail capacity at Patrick Terminals – Sydney AutoStrad from 250,000 TEU to 1 million TEU.
The company will shortly commence the installation and commissioning of three new automated rail mounted gantry (ARMG) cranes and changes to rail windows will take effect from next month.
Patrick Terminals stated that current rail volume will be maintained and rail windows will be optimised by consolidating and removing inefficient services from the schedule.
Michael Jovicic, CEO of Patrick Terminals said he is very pleased with the current progress of the project.
“This decision to minimise disruptions to rail services at Patrick Terminals is supported by NSW Ports and the NSW Government who are committed to a long-term plan of sustainable freight modes,” Jovicic said.
Patrick Terminals’ largest international shipping container terminal is based at Port Botany (PBT) on NSW Ports land at Brotherson Dock.
NSW Ports reports the investment in rail infrastructure will reduce the growth in truck movements around the port.
Patrick Terminals’ stated in a report last year that when fully operational, this investment will reduce truck-kilometres travelled in Sydney by at least 10 million per year.
Patrick’s agreement with NSW Ports will significantly increase the terminal’s rail capacity and enhance efficiency in container movements at the port that will in turn reduce the number of trucks required to visit the terminal.
Customers impacted by the changes to rail windows will be contacted by the dedicated Patrick Terminals rail team.
The first stage of the project, which includes four 300 metre sidings, is due to be completed by the end of the year.