Qube and Aurizon gain Federal approval on Moorebank agreement


Agreement gets green light with environmental and planning approvals still to come

Qube and Aurizon gain Federal approval on Moorebank agreement
An artist’s impression of the finished site.

 

The Moorebank Intermodal Terminal agreement is signed and sealed but the delivery promises to be a challenging affair.

In announcing Moorebank Intermodal Company (MIC) and the Sydney Intermodal Terminal Alliance (Simta) have reached a final agreement, Federal infrastructure minister Warren Truss in a joint statement with finance minister Mathias Cormann made plain there were social and environmental responsibilities to be addressed thoroughly.

"Environmental and planning approvals are being sought for the combined precinct, to address community concerns and minimise any potential adverse impacts on local residents and businesses," they say.

"The planning process will require the project to contribute over time to local traffic intersections where the project will add pressure and require environmental offset investment in green corridors around the facility to enhance the biodiversity and ensure conservation of important vegetation.

"Subject to the approvals by the Commonwealth and state planning and environment authorities, work on the project will begin this year and the Moorebank intermodal terminal is planned to be operational from late 2017."

Despite State and Federal government efforts to placate them, neighbourhood action groups and neighbouring councils have opposed the project over pollution and congestion issues.

 However, the transport and logistics industry believes such issues are far from insurmountable and that the gains far outweigh any negatives.

Australian Logistics Council managing director Michael Kilgariff describes the deal as "an important step towards improving freight efficiency in Sydney".

"With the signing of the contracts now confirmed, work can commence on finally delivering the economic, environmental and community benefits that this national freight project has promised for more than 10 years," Kilgariff says.

"ALC has long advocated for this key ‘inland port’ to be developed in such a way that maximises the enormous potential of this site, which sits at the juncture of major road and rail links in Sydney’s logistics heartland. 

"Central to this position has been our belief that the entire site should be developed in a manner that most efficiently facilitates the movement of freight to and from Port Botany within the shortest timeframe – the key to which is developing the entire Moorebank as part of a ‘whole of precinct’ approach."

Simta is a venture of Qube Holdings, which holds 67 per cent, and Aurizon at 33 per cent.

Under the contract, Simta will develop and operate the open-access freight terminals and associated warehousing on a joint precinct comprising land owned by Simta and an adjoining Federal site. 

The first stage of the project will be an import-export   freight terminal connected by rail to Port Botany, with initial capacity of 250,000 containers per year and eventual capacity for up to 1.05 million containers a year, and expected to be operational in late 2017. 

The second stage is an interstate freight terminal with initial capacity of 250,000 containers per year and eventual capacity for up to 500,000 containers a year, which is expected to begin operating in 2019. The project also involves the development of associated warehousing for the site.

The total project cost for the terminals, precinct infrastructure and associated warehousing is anticipated to be about $1.5 billion over 10 years.

Simta’s initial investment will comprise an estimated $700 million for stages one and two.

The remaining estimated $800 million for the warehouse development will involve commercial negotiations with prospective tenants and third-party funding, it says.

Simta will have a 99-year lease on a joint precinct comprising former Defence Department  land and adjoining land that it already owns.

MIC says the agreement will deliver economic, environmental and community benefits, including:

  • reducing constraints on container volumes moving through Port Botany
  • relieving traffic congestion on Sydney’s roads and the nation’s highways
  • enabling faster freight times and reduced costs to business and consumers
  • creating jobs in south-west Sydney throughout construction and operation of the terminal
  • reducing the project’s rail track footprint and retaining more open space by connecting to the freight rail line at the south of the precinct.

"The terminal is critical infrastructure that will help unlock Sydney’s transport gridlock and get more interstate freight on rail," Dr Kerry Schott says.

"The terminal will be open access for transport operators to increase competition in the freight market, it will support Federal and New South Wales targets to get more freight on rail, and the cost to government will be small."

The Commonwealth is expected to invest around $370 million in the development, including funding the rail connection between the terminal and the Southern Sydney Freight Line and land preparation works.

"This investment will attract a low-risk return and is significantly lower than the amount anticipated when MIC was established in 2012," MIC says.

However, with echoes of long-running agitation surrounding Melbourne port developments, John Anderson, the chairman of Residents against Intermodal Development (Raid) recently questioned various costings as well as the environmental impact.

"Independent technical experts who specialise in traffic modelling have undertaken detailed reviews of the proposals and according to their calculations and estimation the road works alone would require a further $2.9 billion in currently unfunded resources," Anderson states in an open letter.
 
"In addition to the road upgrades (which would cause massive disruptions and inconvenience to the region) one has also to factor the massive funding to provide the touted Rail spurs over the Georges River into the development including the cost of the promised and entirely necessary mitigation works to stop the diesel emissions just falling into the river and mitigation for noise and other necessary mitigation works, which would struggle to lessen the impact on surrounding residents.
 
"The vested interests proposing the Moorebank Intermodal  have gone to great lengths to underplay and grossly underestimate the collateral damage such a development would bring to the area both from the traffic disruption brought about by the transportation movements in an already saturated road system and of downplayed but even more diabolic effect the operations will have on the wellbeing and lifestyles of the unfortunates  who will have to tolerate the noise and pollution issues these operations will bring
 
"The government authorities on both sides of the political barriers need an independent review and revisit the proposals on a without prejudice basis.

"The rose coloured  glasses need to be taken off and the harsh realitiesof the true costs associated with these white elephants need to be taken into account before this ruinous development goes any further
 
"Whatever government is in office after the forthcoming election needs to learn from the past mistakes of the Port Botany experience.

"In conclusion Liverpool Mayor Ned Manoon has taken up the challenge and has proposed viable alternatives to the Moorebank site and several sensible and attractive options for the proper utilisation of the former army land assets adjacent to the Georges River."

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