ARA releases 10-point plan for national freight strategy

Rail body sees mode’s efficiency as crucial given future transport task growth

ARA releases 10-point plan for national freight strategy
Danny Broad backs need for long-term decision making


The Australasian Railway Association (ARA) has submitted its ‘Ten Point Plan to Creating Greater National Freight and Supply Chain Efficiencies’ to the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development’s inquiry into National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy (NFSCS).

"The ARA supports the development of a national freight and supply chain strategy to guide long term decision making and investments by both government and industry," ARA CEO Danny Broad says.

"With Australia’s freight task expected to grow by more than 80 per cent between 2011 and 2031 combined with our national population expected to increase to 30.5 million by 2031, it is critical that we act now to ensure that we are able to meet the freight needs of tomorrow. 

"The ARA, on behalf of the rail industry, has identified 10 areas that require attention to enable greater efficiency and productivity for rail freight.

"They include linking future infrastructure funding to the delivery of reform, commitment to a competitively neutral policy approach to ensure domestic rail freight markets can operate as far as possible on a level footing with other modal choices, a national framework for corridor protection, equitable access pricing for road and rail, as well as Commonwealth, state and territory government investment into rail.

"Other areas for improvement also include maximising efficiency on the existing network, addressing ‘externalities’ that impact upon the Australian community negatively, supporting technology developments, addressing jurisdictional inconsistencies and continuing to identify ways to address challenges associated with different track owners."

The 10 points are:

1. Reform delivery

The ARA endorses Recommendation 1.1 of Infrastructure Australia’s Australian Infrastructure Plan to establish Information Reform Incentives, linking additional infrastructure funding to the delivery of reform outcomes. The ARA sees this as an integral approach to creating greater efficiencies in the national rail freight and supply chain.

2. Commitment to a competitively neutral policy approach

Domestic rail freight markets should operate as far as possible on a level footing with other modal choices by creating an environment where there is an equitable and comparable regulatory environment and/or competitive neutrality between competing modes of transport.

3. A national framework for corridor protection

The ARA seeks Commonwealth, State and Territory Government collaboration in adopting Infrastructure Australia’s corridor protection recommendations to:

  • Prepare agreed, robust plans
  • Prepare feasibility studies on the corridors arising from those plans
  • Establish joint funding and governance arrangements to protect and capture the value in these corridors.

4. Equitable access pricing for road and rail

The ARA endorses an economically competitive level playing field between rail and road and seeks a mass-distance-location charging mechanism for heavy vehicles to be adopted along major interstate routes, which will allow road to compete equally with rail.

5. Efficient infrastructure investment

Commonwealth, state and territory government investment is required to optimise existing infrastructure to achieve enhanced productivity with funding focused on alleviating road congestion, boosting rail freight efficiency in our major cities and improving rail-port connectivity.

6. Maximising efficiency on the existing network

Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments need to embrace separate freight and passenger lines to assist rail operators meet increasing customer requirements, based on service, reliability, quality and price

7. Addressing externalities

Governments need to include ‘externalities’ in decision-making processes to ensure externalities do not impact the Australian community negatively. Externalities could include:

  • Environmental costs, such as emissions, noise and land use
  • Safety costs, such as fatalities, injuries and property damage
  • Congestion and its associated costs.

8. Supporting technology developments

The rail industry is committed to embracing and investing in new and emerging technologies to help facilitate improvements across the sector. Government can work with industry to:

Invest in research to implement international best practice in the area of rail freight technology development and adoption

Explore the concept of a Commonwealth Innovation Fund that provides seed funding to develop rail freight technology projects that would create greater efficiency to the national freight and supply chain.

9. Addressing jurisdictional inconsistencies

There needs to be greater Commonwealth, state and territory Government collaboration to improve jurisdictional regulation inconsistencies. This could include, but not limited to, environmental legislation, a lack of standardised approval processes and procedures for rolling stock approvals, as well as drug and alcohol testing.

10. Access/separation

Continue to identify ways to address challenges associated with different track owners.

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