Big freight firms to keep up pressure on Inland Rail

By: Rob McKay

Group of seven say open letter to PM was noted as ARA voices concern over Budget

Big freight firms to keep up pressure on Inland Rail
The largest operators, including Aurizon, are keen on the project.


The nation’s seven biggest transport and logistics firms can be expected to keep lobbying for the Inland Rail link but the rail part the industry fears the mode has lost traction in Canberra.

Despite the lack of public response to an unprecedented open letter by the grouping of Asciano, Aurizon, Genesee & Wyoming Australia, Linfox, Qube, SCT Logistics and Toll, those involved insist their concerns were noted by prime minister Tony Abbott and the infrastructure minister, deputy prime minister Warren Truss.

It was noted to ATN that the present government had already invested $300 million in the project presently costed at $4.7 billion.

"That’s a pretty solid investment in it," one close observer says, adding that the "latest business case [for the infrastructure] is imminent".

The source says the grouping was not expecting to see full funding in the looming Budget, and though convinced of Canberra’s desire to see it completed would continue to lobby for it.

"The road transport sector is essential for this country and will remain so, but rail has a much greater contribution to make," the open letter to the prime minister says.

"About 80 per cent of freight moving between the east and west coasts of Australia travels on rail. This is a highly productive, cost-effective and low emission service.

"Today, less than 30 per cent of freight moving between Melbourne and Brisbane travels by rail. Building the Inland Rail is a huge opportunity for this country.

For Australia to capitalise on its global opportunities we need to ensure we have transport infrastructure that efficiently links together all elements of the supply chain.

"Inland Rail with the appropriate freight terminals in Melbourne and Brisbane will achieve this, completing a world class national rail freight network and connecting our major capital cities, farming regions, mines and ports.

"When complete, Inland Rail will reduce train transit times and transport costs that impact the affordability of everyday household items. It will provide a reliable rail transport alternative for agricultural and mining freight, improving the global competitiveness of our key exports.

"By providing full construction funding, the Inland Rail will create new jobs and transform Australia’s supply chain for generations to come."

But, as Abbott makes pledges of $499 million to Western Australian road projects and $100 million for northern Australian cattle roads and while Truss spruiks the second tranche of the Federal Government’s $50 billion national road spend, the nation’s rail lobby is less sanguine about the relative pre-Budget silence on its mode.

The Australasian Railway Association (ARA) has written to all federal members of parliament and senators on the issue.

Interim chairman Bob Herbert stated he was disappointed to not see rail feature prominently on the Federal Government’s policy agenda over the past year and it was therefore imperative to the rail industry that the ARA’s outlined priorities be pursued in future budgets. 

"We’ve outlined to Government the importance of creating jobs and economic growth from continued investment in critical rail infrastructure and services throughout Australia by strengthening our freight networks; delivering major urban rail passenger projects; and supporting local manufacturers, suppliers and contractors in the sector," Herbert says.

"For rail freight, the single most important project in this budget and the next is Inland Rail; a critical piece of rail infrastructure that connects Melbourne to Brisbane, enhancing freight movement along Australia’s east coast."

In its key platforms manifesto, the ARA wants certainty on the project’s future through "a clear and significant funding commitment" across the Budget’s 2016-17 forward estimates.

It also calls for a clearer implementation timeframe and a spending commitment for the existing $300 million toward detailed planning, land acquisition, community consultation and exploration of regional freight rail links.



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