ARA pushes carbon scheme to boost rail freight

By: Jason Whittaker


The Australasian Railways Association (ARA) is pushing an initiative to increase rail freight capacity while keeping road transport costs to

The Australasian Railways Association (ARA) is pushing an initiative to increase rail freight capacity while keeping road transport costs to a minimum when an emissions trading scheme begins.

ARA Chief Executive Bryan Nye wants the Federal Government to give trucking companies carbon credits if they carry more freight by rail. Not only will this slash the amount of greenhouse gas emissions by taking more trucks off the road, Nye says it will also benefit the trucking industry struggling with skills shortages and rising running costs.

The trucking industry is finding it hard to attract as well as retain drivers amid record-high fuel prices, which have led to some owner-drivers organising strikes in protest.

"This is not a road versus rail argument. The road industry would love to have a more efficient rail network," Nye says.

Nye points to the Melbourne to Sydney run as an example, arguing big trucking operators want to put units on the back of trains in Melbourne, haul them into terminals in Sydney and then distribute them by truck in metropolitan areas.

The only thing holding them back, the ARA argues, is the chronic underinvestment in the rail network which has resulted in dilapidated tracks and insufficient level crossings.

Because governments have tended more to focus on the road network, Nye says governments are now in "catch-up mode" as they attempt to build, as well as maintain, a viable rail network.

But there are positive signs governments are starting to focus more on rail freight, according to Nye. He says discussions with the office of Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Anthony Albanese have been positive.

The increased focus is also helped as climate change issues take centre stage. Rail is seen as an effective method in reigning in transport emissions based on the fact it can cut the number of trucks needed to deliver freight.

The Government is to introduce an emissions trading scheme—setting a carbon threshold and handing out credits up to the agreed-upon level—in 2010. This will follow the National Greenhouse Energy Reporting Scheme (NGERS) which is to come into effect on July 1.

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