Capacity constraints ruin rail's golden opportunity

Rail is failing to take advantage of a trend for greener and more efficient freight movement, according to a new paper

Rail is failing to take advantage of a trend for greener and more efficient freight movement, with capacity constraints and poor service levels hampering growth according to a new discussion paper.

The National Transport Commission (NTC) has released an issues paper on passenger and freight rail services to guide a review into national transport policy.

Strong population growth, rising petrol prices, a larger freight task and concerns over climate change have created a number of opportunities for the rail sector, according to the paper.

But it says a number of issues are impacting performance, with infrastructure reaching capacity and poor service and reliability leaving the sector unable to compete with road transport in many areas.

"Productivity improvements will therefore be increasingly important for the rail industry to increase capacity and improve service provision," the paper argues.

"To ensure that the rail industry is able to use productive inputs more efficiently and direct investment to where it is needed an appropriate regulatory framework needs to exist."

In looking at the regulatory environment the paper explores the issues of appropriate industry structure and the role of government, asset utilisation and management, rail network, business and operational systems, and the interaction of rail with other transport modes.

The NTC wants public comment on the issues raised, which will be included in the Australian Transport Council’s national transport policy reform agenda.

"The challenges of climate change, rising oil prices, energy security and urban congestion provide significant opportunities for the rail sector," says NTC Chief Executive Nick Dimopoulos.

"A strategic focus on productivity and economic reform is urgently needed to ensure the rail industry plays its part in meeting those challenges."

Public responses to the issues paper will be accepted until September 18, with a draft position statement to be released in November ahead of a final position statement in March/April next year.

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