Roozendaal quizzed over Patrick consultation

NSW Opposition accuses government over regulating rail freight fees at Port Botany, questioning the level of consultation with Patrick

By Brad Gardner | September 22, 2010

The NSW Opposition has questioned the level of consultation between government and stevedore Patrick before the decision to regulate rail freight fees at Port Botany.

NSW Nationals MLC Duncan Gay yesterday raised concerns over the implementation of pricing regulation at the port after Patrick tried to increase fees from $15 to $25 per container.

Gay queried the actions of Ports and Waterways Minister Eric Roozendaal, suggesting he had already made up his mind before meeting Patrick officials.

Roozendaal says he spoke to affected parties and claims he had to take action because an increase in rail fees will lead to "thousands of extra trucks" on Sydney roads.

"I met with both rail operators and Patricks to discuss the issue and understand the impact the price increase would have on the movement of freight in and around Sydney," he says.

Patrick has criticised the Government over a lack of consultation, saying it has sought meetings with ministers for the past six months to discuss ways of improving port efficiency. It claims its requests have repeatedly been denied.

Patrick Container Ports General Manager Paul Garaty says the stevedore tried to lift prices to recover its costs and improve rail operations. He says less than one in ten trains arrive at the port on time, while more than one in five do not turn up at all.

"We have proposed increased fees and new rules to provide incentives to make rail more efficient. But even with the proposed increase, Patrick will still not cover the costs of servicing rail at Port Botany," Garaty says.

According to Patrick, it stands to lose about $3 million a year due to the Government’s decision to regulate pricing.

Roozendaal accused the company of trying to push freight volumes back onto the road network, undermining the NSW Government’s push to have 40 percent of freight carried by rail.

"We do not want to see more and more trucks clogging up Sydney roads, especially when capacity is available on the rail network," Roozendaal says.

Yet when asked by Gay about the current percentage of freight being carried by rail, Roozendaal did not respond.

Garaty claims the Government has done little to fulfil its 40 percent commitment, accusing it of a lack of investment in rail.

"Anyone who lives in NSW will understand this government’s poor performance in rail and road infrastructure - and freight is no different," he says.

"And without a greater commitment to rail freight infrastructure in NSW, it remains difficult to see rail mode share increasing above 18 per cent in the near future."

Garaty says Patrick wants to work with government to ensure more freight is carried on rail. However, he says the best way to do this is through greater cooperation and market-based solutions. Patrick introduced the rail fee in 2002 and increased it from $10 to $15 in 2008.

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