SSFL opens for business

The new 36 kilometre Southern Sydney Freight Line between Macarthur and Chullora has commenced operations

SSFL opens for business
SSFL opens for business

By Anna Game-Lopata | January 22, 2013

The new 36 kilometre Southern Sydney Freight Line (SSFL) between Macarthur and Chullora has commenced operations.

The $1 billion piece of infrastructure is expected to speed up the movement of trains through Sydney and improve the overall competitiveness and reliability of the nation’s interstate rail freight network.

Federal Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese says the ambitious project is part of a much larger capital works program which aims to take up to a million trucks a year off the nation’s highways.

"For many years Sydney has been the single largest bottleneck on the Interstate Rail Network, with freight trains facing frustrating delays getting into and out of the city due to its limited track capacity and the priority given to passenger trains, particularly during peak periods," Albanese says.

"This new dedicated freight line will go a long way to alleviating this handbrake on productivity."

Built adjacent to the passenger network, the SSFL will allow passenger and freight services to operate separately from one another, thereby more than tripling the capacity of this important rail corridor.

Part of
a $2.5 billion federal government
investment program, the SSFL is just one of the project intended to
Australia's Raill Track Corporation's (ARTC) north south interstate network between Melbourne and Brisbane.

ARTC CEO John Fullerton says having spent the last five years upgrading the network and introducing new safe working systems there is now spare capacity he is keen to utilise.

"A lot of freight forwarders and end users say ‘We use rail 80 per cent of the time heading to the west, we’d like to use it more on the east coast but the service isn’t reliable enough and rail doesn’t necessarily fit our supply chains as well as it should,’" Fullerton says.

While Minister Albanese claims average transit times between Brisbane and Melbourne are on track to be seven hours shorter than they were in 2005, Fullerton’s key focus for us over the next six months to design a new, more reliable network timetable.

"It’s a cooperative effort between ARTC and rail operators to achieve reliable schedules and to sell the best service to customers," he says.

But he says reliability isn’t just a track issue.
"Rail operators must run train services on time and many of them are investing in new equipment, which is a positive sign for the north-south corridor," Fullerton says.

"They’ve bought new locomotives and they’re upgrading their terminals so that’s a positive step in the right direction."

The SSFL connects with ARTC’s existing main line to Melbourne and Perth at Campletown and the RailCorp network at
the ARTC's main line track in Newcastle through to Brisbane.

It also links with the Metropolitan Freight Network, a direct freight-only connection into Port Botany.

ARTC entered into a long-term lease with Transport for New South Wales (TfNSW) to maintain and operate the MFN and will take full control of the network in 2014.

Currently just 14 per cent of the import/export container market to Port Botany is on rail, amounting to 250,000 TEU per year.

Fullerton says once the upgrades to the MFN are complete, ARTC will be able to move in excess of one million TEU per year across the rail network.

"We're halfway through upgrading the MFN,"
he says.

"We have completed the upgrade of Port Botany Yard and currently we are working to build additional tracks at Enfield and install new signalling near Cooks River.

"We’ll quadruple the current volume with the capacity we are providing on the MFN network," he says.

"So projects such as the Moorebank and Enfield terminal developments and others are very important to us because they provide origin and destination points for containers coming off the port in Botany. We're well-positioned to handle increased volumes as they occur.

"Our plans now are to work closely with Transport for NSW, Sydney Ports Corporation, rail operators and stevedores on how we can capture more freight on the MFN."

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