New authority needed to revive rail, ACRFD says


Victorian Government should establish independent authority to oversee rail freight sector, lobby group says

By Ruza Zivkusic | March 17, 2011

The Victorian Government should establish an independent authority to oversee the rail freight sector, a local government lobby group says.

During a meeting last month with Ports Minister Denis Napthine and Transport Minister Terry Mulder, the Alliance of Councils for Rail Freight Development (ACRFD) argued for a new body to attract freight back to rail.

"It is vital that there is a freight facilitation group that can identify and remedy actual and perceived issues that may deter farmers from utilising rail for transport of their produce," a report prepared for the ministers states.

"The unit also needs to be backed with some access to capital funds for the provision of sidings and loading facilities as well as extension and marketing capacities."

There is only the Department of Transport that the ACRFD contacts when in need, ACRFD Chair Vernon Knight says.

"The department is not simply about rail, it’s about road and maritime and what we’re seeing is that unless rail has a champion then issues can’t be addressed," he says.

"Victoria’s best hope of establishing a proper rail future will be about having the ability to promote rail, that’s why we’re seeing this strategy is so important.

"It’s about identifying freight opportunities and that’s where we think a facilitation group would make that to happen."

It is estimated that this year’s harvest will be 4.6 million tonnes of which 3 million tonnes will be export grain that needs to be transported to ports, the report says.

The ACRFD wants the Victorian Government to repair critical grain lines that were damaged during this year’s floods and to recommission the Dimboola to Yaapeet railway to allow grain movements from Rainbow and Yapeet.

It also believes the government should allocate $20 million each year to the major periodic maintenance of the grain rail network and establish targets such as the replacement of 100,000 sleepers each year.

The report wants rail container freight rebates for export grain to continue beyond June this year because the viability of container rail services depends on it.


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