Budget 2017: rail firms hail Inland Rail boost

Aurizon, Pacific National and rail industry body gratified with Budget’s rail focus

Budget 2017: rail firms hail Inland Rail boost
Harding calls for implementation of new pricing methodology across rail and road transport.


The $8.4 billion funding promise for the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail project has pleased the rail freight industry, not least the two most prominent rail operators.

Both Aurizon and Pacific National commend the federal government’s commitment towards the "nation-building project".

The Inland Rail link is seen as "fundamental" in boosting rail freight efficiency in Australia, and the Australasian Rail Association (ARA) too believes the federal support offers "renewed confidence" that the project will be delivered.

Aurizon MD and CEO Andrew Harding says governments at both federal and state level have key roles to play in implementing policy and regulatory frameworks for rail.

Harding is calling for a strong focus on implementation of new pricing methodology and governance to make sure that a "consistent pricing framework" is applied across both road and rail freight haulage.

"Rail freight companies need to be able to compete on equal footing with other transport modes and allow rail to do more of the heavy-lifting in Australia’s freight transport task," Harding says.

"Currently heavy vehicles are charged indirectly by government through diesel excise and registration to recover an historical average of spending on road infrastructure.

"Whereas rail freight operators are directly charged for access to, and use of, rail infrastructure, with prices that are more cost-reflective and overseen by an independent economic regulator."

He says improving productivity and integrating existing freight supply chains will be a key step during construction and future management of rail infrastructure.

Pacific National commends the government’s promise to begin construction of the Inland Rail in FY17-18.

"We want a swift and smooth construction program and a clear path to the day the first freight trains can start using the route – and this will ensure potential investors and rail operators can plan for the future with greater certainty," a company statement reads.

ARA CEO Danny Broad says while, once operational, the Inland Rail project is expected to improve productivity and increase consumer freight options, significant work will be needed to see it through.

"Linking Victoria and regional NSW with Queensland will help get freight off the road and onto rail, address rising congestion in Sydney, and will deliver thousands of jobs; many in regional Australia," Broad states.

"We note the Government’s intention for a public private partnership to progress the Toowoomba to Kagaru tunnel section, which is the most challenging aspect of this project.

"Whist this capital injection to the ARTC is welcomed, the fact remains that significant work needs to occur to ensure the Inland Rail project comes to fruition. 

"This includes maximising the economic benefits of this project by delivering efficient linkages that directly connect the railway line to the Port of Melbourne and Port Brisbane."

Broad highlights the importance of additional infrastructure improvements to optimise efficiency and "rail’s ability to compete with road".

"Industry is keen to partner with the Commonwealth to undertake further work on how Australia can benefit from building and operating faster rail, particularly in our high growth areas near our capital cities."

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