SIMTA open to tender for Fed's Moorebank hub

The Sydney Intermodal Terminal Alliance says it may tender for the operation of the federal government’s freight facility at Moorebank

SIMTA open to tender for Fed's Moorebank hub
SIMTA open to Government’s Moorebank plan

By Anna Game-Lopata | April 24, 2012

The Sydney Intermodal Terminal Alliance (SIMTA) says it may tender for the operation of the federal government’s freight hub at Moorebank in in Sydney’s south west.

SIMTA’s separate $1 billion plan to build a rail freight shuttle between its own 83 hectare site at Moorebank and the Port of Melbourne by 2014 has been frustrated by the federal government’s apparent attempt to compete.

The government has ramped up Labor's original $300 million Nation Building Program 1 contribution to a Moorebank facility development on a 220 hectare site across the road from the SIMTA site.

Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese yesterday announced an intermodal terminal in Moorebank will be a reality by 2017, and called for to tenders to start work on the controversial project.

Minister Albanese says the terminal, which will transfer freight from trucks to rail, will take 3300 trucks off Sydney roads each day. He says the site will, in future, be expanded to include an interstate freight terminal.

"Today the government is announcing its intention to call for tenders from the private sector to design, build and operate an intermodal terminal at Moorebank," Albanese says.

The federal government’s Moorebank Intermodal Terminal project will see a rail link constructed from Sydney’s busy Port Botany to a new freight terminal and warehousing facilities at Moorebank. This will enable freight to be more efficiently transported by rail, providing much-needed relief for Sydney drivers.

Albanese says the terminal is forecast to inject $135 million a year into the economy of south-western Sydney and that Australian businesses using Port Botany will benefit through reduced freight costs and diesel emissions.

Given its close proximity to the M5, M7 and the Southern Sydney freight line, Moorebank was identified by the Howard government as key to the future of freight efficiency in NSW.

However, the Gillard government seems to have been prompted to take action by the appearance of SIMTA’s proposal this year, arguing its earlier reticence was the result of the need for proper consideration to determine the best solution to get "Moorbank right in everyone’s interests".

A spokesperson for Minister Albanese’s department tells SupplyChain Review strong business and industry backing for the SIMTA proposal is based on the false premise that the its private consortium members Qube Logistics and QR National could have their facility up and running by 2014 and that it will cost nothing to taxpayers.

He argues when SIMTA purchased the Moorebank site it was aware of the obstacle presented by the fact the land is currently leased to Defence Logistics with two options for extension to be implemented at Defence's sole discretion. The first option for 2013 to 2018 can be exercised in 2012.

While SIMTA has been negotiating on the issue, Defence is on the record as saying the supply of its overseas operations from the SIMTA site must come first and though aware of the imperative to build the freight hub at Moorebank, it may still extend its lease a further five years.

"Shifting a $350 million Defence Logistics Centre and upgrading the M5 on and off ramps will not cost the taxpayer nothing," Minister Albanese’s spokesperson says.

"The SIMTA proposal, which has been bolstered by a very successful PR campaign does not include these and other costs."

The spokesperson also defends the government’s decision not to back the SIMTA proposal by saying its site is too small.

"The shuttle will fill up quickly, the site can’t accommodate interstate trains and there’s no room to grow in the next 50 years," he says.

"At the end of the day, we’re seeking tenders to design, build and operate an intermodal facility on a much larger site with open access arrangements.

"SIMTA’s proposal will not be open access. We’re not going to make the mistake of having a facility where SIMTA competitors are crying foul because they can’t get access to the infrastructure."

Minister Albanese’s spokesperson points to the government’s recent KPMG and Greenhill Caliburn business cases for the government’s proposal as further proof that its viability outweighs SIMTA plan.

Meanwhile, the SIMTA consortium, which already owns or operates more than ten similar open access rail facilities around Australia tells SupplyChain Review it will carefully examine the Commonwealth’s proposal, despite the unnecessary delay to development of the precinct it believes will result.

"The Federal Government today has chosen to prefer a model which will cost significant taxpayer’s money and delay by four years the removal of nearly 1 million truck movements per year from the M5 to Port Botany," says Qube Logistics Managing Director Maurice James.

"We remain firmly of the view that our privately funded proposal for an open access port shuttle could still be operational by early 2014 and provides the most cost effective and efficient solution to the rail freight task in NSW."

"In the meantime we will continue to negotiate with the department of defence to obtain access to a small portion of our site to allow development of a port shuttle at Moorebank within two years."

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