Time to engage Queensland industry on freight


Strong views were aired at the final Queensland Integrated Freight Strategy industry consultation hosted in Townsville last Friday

By Anna Game-Lopata |
June 9, 2010

Strong views were aired at the final Queensland Integrated Freight Strategy industry consultation hosted in Townsville on Friday,
June 4 by Queensland’s Transport and Logistics Council (QTLC).

QTLC Chairman Neil Findlay says the integration of freight strategy is imperative for Queensland.

"We need to enable the various levels of government and industry to be on the same page about asset ownership, regulation, land use, planning and zoning,"
he says.

"This message was heard at earlier consultations and reinforced in Townsville at the most recent and final of our meetings to develop Queensland’s Integrated Freight Strategy concept.

"Essentially, it will be very difficult to make the step changes required for our freight network and infrastructure to operate efficiently unless everyone on the same page. Integration is the key to making it all work."

Findlay says key take-aways from the Townsville consultation include the need to align the lifecycle of infrastructure with developments and the importance of reducing inefficiencies on existing networks.

"While rail infrastructure might have a 50-year lifecycle built in, the life of a mine might only be
10 or fifteen years,’ Findlay says.

"So there’s the danger of spending an enormous amount of money to build a rail line that could become redundant in 20 years time."

"In addition, participants say there’s work to be done to rectify serious inefficiencies on the network, such as empty running.

"Strong views were put forward about the Townsville to Mount Isa line, where it’s apparent a wide variety of freight is carried by rolling stock that doesn’t lend itself to return loading.

"It was even suggested, that passenger traffic be taken off the Townsville to Mount Isa and Townsville to Cairns lines to open up further pathways for freight."

There was also an acknowledgement from industry that it is about time it engaged at an integrated level.

"There’s been a very favourable response from key industry figures and bodies who want to participate in the long-term strategic development of the freight network, infrastructure and policy regulation," Findlay says.

"We need to realign the way freight is managed overall in Queensland. Most would agree that due to legacy contractual obligations or other paradigms in operation there is a lot of freight that’s not on the optimal mode.

"There’s also a recognition that coastal shipping could play a bigger role especially given the large amount of coastline Queensland has and the number of good ports along the way."

The Townsville consultation also echoed previous meetings on the issue of regulatory and access issues required to make better use of high-performance freight vehicles, specifically B-doubles and road trains.

Industry participants agreed that the main impediment to the development of appropriate infrastructure is the capital cost required.

"Industry is of the view that it alone can’t make the big infrastructure decisions that are necessary and can’t fund them,’ Findlay says.

"We need a several decade horizon view from government to make decisions and fund major infrastructure.

"One of the hurdles to improving the freight network is the fact that we have short electoral cycles. Politicians tend to make short term decisions with one eye on the next election in four years time.

"The meeting in Townsville put forward the observation that we need a 6-8 or ten-year electoral cycle for policy development and infrastructure on the freight network.

"If such a long term view
is taken, the right decisions
could be made and the funding
could be advertised over decades rather than 3-5 year cycle."

Moving forward, Findlay says once the initial Queensland Integrated Freight Strategy document has been completed it will be signed off by QTLC, the Department of Transport and Main Roads and Queensland’s Director General.

"At the moment the document is a set of guiding principles, and is not designed to make recommendations on funding or policy," Findlay says.

"The next step is to evolve our strategy into a number of key outputs. We will be targeting specific actions that have come out of the agenda."

While Findlay would not elaborate on the nature of these actions, he says QTLC will be looking at a suite of potential tasks in the next couple of months once the Integrated Freight Strategy document is complete.

"It’s a bit premature to specify what these tasks will be, suffice to say they will flow out of the work we have been doing," Findlay says.

QTLC CHAMPIONS QLD FREIGHT STRATEGY

An incorporated body, QTLC has been in existence for little over a year. Though funded by government, it has an independent board and membership comprising both industry and government.

"QTLC was born out of several years of engagement between industry and the then Queensland Transport," Findlay says.

"Its intention is to provide a better link for policy decisions between industry and government.

"Early in life of the QTLC there was a recognition the best strategy would be to harness the resources of both government and industry in an integrated freight strategy, which until that time was lacking.

"Following the amalgamation of Queensland Transport and the Department of Main Roads, government has been working in parallel with QTLC to develop the strategy through industry consultations around the issues."

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