Rail freight sector bullish, new survey shows

ARA report shows that non-bulk hire and reward traffic grew 2.8 million tonnes, or 14.8 per cent

October 2, 2013

Rail, trucking’s only effective non-bulk modal competitor at present, is in rude health, the latest report on the sector shows.

The Australian Rail Industry Report 2012, prepared for the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) by the Apelbaum Consulting Group, is the eighth in the series and covers the
2011/12 financial year.

It shows that non-bulk traffic, which made up 5.1 per cent of national hire and reward tonnes in the period, grew by 2.8 million tonnes, or 14.8 per cent, to almost 21.6 million tonnes.

The figures threw up some wrinkles.

Between 2007/08 and 2010/11 the non-bulk rail freight task declined by 4.5 billion tonne-kilometres, or 13.7 per cent.

However, 2011/12 witnessed an increase in the non-bulk task of 2.7 billion tonne-kilometres or 9.7 per cent.

Non-bulk freight made up 25.1 per cent of the total hire and reward task.

While most of the non-bulk task, 81.2 per cent, is undertaken on interstate routes, the vast majority of the hire and reward bulk task, at 94.1 per cent, is undertaken intrastate.

Graphs for rail freight generally pointed upward.

It increased by more than 8 per cent to 929.6 million tonnes, with ore constituting for 53 per cent of that figure, followed by coal at 33 per cent.

"This report justifies increased investment in rail to reduce congestion on roads and increase productivity across the economy," ARA CEO Nye says.

"With only 5 per cent of freight moving by rail between Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane rail has the capacity and is ready to take more freight between the capitals and free up our congested highways."

Nye has taken Federal and State politicians to task on their performance on rail freight – Prime Minister Tony Abbott for a simplistic approach in comments on urban rail finding and New South Wales and Victorian transport ministers for not following through on promises to raise non-bulk rail’s percentage of the freight transport task.

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