Events, Freight Rail, Research & Development

Unlocking policy gridlock for Australia


An Australian-first review will aim to unlock the continuing policy constraints holding back the efficiency of the nation’s rail freight industry.

The review, headed by former Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson, ‘Establishing an efficient freight transport network for Australia’, was launched today in Sydney.

Rail freight transport and logistics perform a vital role in supporting more than $350 billion in resources and agricultural exports each year.

Anderson said the review came at a pivotal time for the Australian economy, with the rail industry having enormous potential to deliver for both business and the community.

“At a time of significant rail infrastructure funding – including Inland Rail – impediments to the utilisation of rail freight are costly for the Australian economy and the community,” he said.

Rail freight offers substantial benefits that include:
• Environment: Road freight produces 16 times more carbon pollution than rail freight per tonne kilometre.
• Safety: Rail transport is a far safer mode of transport than road, with the freight volume carried by one freight train equivalent to the volume carried by 150 semi-trailer trucks. Over the course of a year, the freight task carried by one train removes the need for thousands of truck journeys on our roads reducing congestion and enhancing safety outcomes.
• Productivity: Significant economic and productivity gains are achievable where there are large volumes of freight and/or where the freight is carried over longer distances.

“Despite these clear benefits, on major freight corridors across Australia there continues to be a shift of freight from rail to road,” Anderson said.

“Are we going to capitalise on the next cycle of post-COVID economic growth with efficient supply chains that add great value to Australian industry and exports? Or are we going to languish with policy settings that fail to harness the opportunities that rail freight provides?

“What is required is an evidence-based assessment of the key impediments to rail and identifying practical policy changes that improve the productivity of rail freight and allow the industry to bring more freight onto rail where rail offers safety, economic and environmental benefits for customers and for the community.”

Key issues the Review will consider include:
• Factors affecting the current mode share of rail freight on key corridors.
• The role of infrastructure provision and investment.
• Addressing how heavy vehicles pay far lower infrastructure usage charges creating an uneven playing field.
• Opportunities to efficiently meet the current and emerging requirements of Australian industries that rely on freight supply chains to transport products to markets in Australia and to export markets.

The Review is being jointly funded by the Freight on Rail Group of Australia (FORG), the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) and the Federal Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications.

The study will be undertaken by specialist economic advisory firm, Synergies Economic Consulting together with the Australasian Centre for Rail Innovation (ACRI).

The review is expected to be published in Q3 2022.