Nye throws down challenge to St Clair for debate

ARA challenges ATA to transport debate after accusing the group of disingenuously trying to discredit the rail sector

August 11, 2011

The rail lobby has thrown down a challenge to the Australian Trucking Association, calling for a public debate to settle a rail versus truck dispute.

As the Australasian Railway Association prepared to release The True Value of Rail Report yesterday, the ATA issued a statement claiming rail would have no credibility unless it signed up to tight engine emission controls similar to trucking.

The report aimed to outline the social and environmental benefits of using rail over road transport, but ATA CEO Stuart St Clair claimed Australia’s freight locomotives were, on average, 36 years old, not subject to emissions controls and pumped out more pollution than trucks.

St Clair’s comments prompted an angry reaction from Nye, who accused the group of disingenuously using statistics that apply to regional rail services and trying to discredit the entire rail industry.

"The majority of Australian rail freight locomotives meet most European and North American standards on air quality and emissions," Nye says.

He says regional operators have no incentive to upgrade their locomotives because the services run at a loss. The ARA currently has a proposal before government that seeks assistance to replace the older units.

"The trucking industry is trying to discredit sound research. If we’re going to weigh the environmental and social benefits of road and rail we need the full picture," Nye says.

"I am more than happy to participate in a public debate with the ATA on any environmental or social issues relating to transport."

Nye says Australian locomotives that meet international standards produce two to three times less CO2 emissions than trucks, while bulk freight such as coal is up to 10 times more emissions friendly when transported on rail as opposed to road.

St Clair yesterday claimed older Australian trains produce considerably more carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, carbon dioxide and particulates than the locomotives used in the US.

"Since 1995, the trucking industry has been subject to increasingly tight pollution controls. All new trucks must now meet the incredibly tough Euro V standard," he says.

"In contrast, there are no emission controls on railway locomotives even though these controls were discussed in a National Transport Commission scoping paper in 2004."

The True Value of Rail Report, which Queensland Rail Managing Director and CEO Lance Hockridge launched at the National Press Club yesterday, claims transporting a container between Melbourne and Brisbane on rail as opposed to on the back of a truck will save about $150.

It says every additional rail journey reduces the time spent in traffic by up to 23 minutes and that road transport generates almost eight times more accident costs than rail.

"Road freight produces more than ten times as much carbon pollution as rail freight per tonne kilometre," the report states.

Carried out by Deloitte Access Economics, the report wants trucks to pay a levy on each container carried to account for the cost of congestion and carbon emissions.

"This could then transition towards charging freight movements based on the use of arterial roads and finally towards mass-distance charging," it says.

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