Greens want Botany privatisation to fund rail freight

Greens want some of the proceeds from planned Port Botany privatisation spent on rail freight upgrades

By Brad Gardner | September 8, 2011

The Greens want the NSW Government to use some of the proceeds from the planned privatisation of Port Botany to fund rail freight upgrades to reduce truck movements.

Following Treasurer Mike Baird’s budget announcement that Botany will be put to tender under a 99-year lease, Greens MP and transport spokeswoman Cate Faehrmann says the money should be used on duplicating the rail track between the port and Sydenham.

Baird plans to use the proceeds, which is estimated to exceed $2 billion, to fund infrastructure projects, including on the Pacific and Princes highways.

"The Port Botany expansion will mean millions more truck movements on Sydney's roads unless we move quickly to upgrade the rail freight network. The government should be allocating some of the lease windfall to relieving congestion created by the landside operations of Port Botany," Faehrmann says.

With rail’s share of freight movements declining, Faehrmann claims upgrades to Botany to give it the capacity to deal with up to 8 million container units threatens to clog local and atrial roads with trucks and increase traffic noise levels.

"About 90 percent of these containers end up in Western Sydney and unless we are prepared for Sydney to come to a complete stop, containers must increasingly be moved by rail," sje says.

"The only logical solution is to use part of the expected income from the lease of Port Botany to fund an immediate duplication of the track which is already overdue. Without this duplication the target for freight movement won't be reached and communities will suffer."

Faehrmann says Baird can still allocate part of the income from privatising the port to highway upgrades, but it must also focus on local congestion and pollution.

The NSW Budget, handed down this week, has allocated $200 million over four years for a congestion and safety package. The government will spend $41 million this financial year.

In handing down the budget this week, Baird referred to the Port of Brisbane privatisation that netted $2.1 billion for taxpayers, saying it proves the benefits that can be realised.

Botany’s assets include three container terminals with six container berths, which will rise to 11 when upgrades are completed next year.

The budget allocates $200 million over four years on a road safety and congestion package, with $41 million allocated in 2011-12. The government will spend close to $3.2 billion on roads, which includes projects on the Pacific, Hume, Greater Western and Princes highways.

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) does not support the privatisation of Port Botany and accuses Premier Barry O’Farrell of flogging off public assets for short-term political gain instead of developing long-term plans to increase productivity and services.

"Furthermore, Mr O’Farrell is selling public assets into a capital market which is currently experiencing severe decline. Amid the current global uncertainty, it’s doubtful there are sufficient funds for sustainable private sector investment in infrastructure," MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin says.

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