Adelaide to Melbourne rail upgrade not cost effective

Operators using Adelaide to Melbourne route may be able to put fears of increased rail competition aside

By Rob McKay | June 25, 2010

Operators servicing the Adelaide to Melbourne route may be able to put fears of increased rail competition to rest if the final Adelaide Rail Freight Movements Study report is accepted.

The report, compiled by consultancy firm GHD for the federal transport department, concludes that even the cheapest upgrade - improving the tortuous existing rail path through the Adelaide Hills - is not cost effective.

GHD researchers found even the most productive of the five options studied would provide benefits of $190m over 30 years, compared with construction costs for the five of between $700m and $3.2bn each.

"While there are benefits flowing to rail track managers, train operators and the communities that surround the rail line, the size of these benefits is modest and the size of the capital outlay required to generate such benefits is large, particularly in the new alignment options," the report says.

The current alignment has a capacity of 10.7 million tonnes of freight a year, which is more than double the 4.8 million tonnes a year currently carried on the rail line.

However, steep grades and tight curves force trains to travel more slowly and to use 50 percent more locomotive power per tonne than on other interstate rail freight corridors, the report says.

They also restrict trains to a maximum of 3,500 tonnes gross.

The terrain of the Adelaide Hills causes greater locomotive and wagon wear and tear and higher maintenance costs than would be incurred with a straighter, flatter alignment.

Responses from the Australian Trucking Association and the Australasian Railway Association to the report were awaited at deadline today.

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