Dalla Valle puts governments in frame for rail freight neglect

Transport and Infrastructure Council urged to aid modal shift and modernise approach

Dalla Valle puts governments in frame for rail freight neglect
Dean Dalla Valle


The nation’s transport ministers have been presented with a picture of dysfunctional and neglectful political stewardship of the rail freight industry.

Freight On Rail Group (FORG) chair Dean Dalla Valle painted the image of the dead hand of government suffocating the mode at a recent presentation to the Transport and Infrastructure Council (TIC) in Adelaide.

While the trucking industry is gaining traction on productivity issues amid calls to bring that sector’s regulation into the 21st century, Dalla Valle, who is also Pacific National CEO, bemoans rail freight’s struggle with a 19th century rules and regulations.

Read Dalla Valle’s fears for rail freight, here

"For example, a NSW freight train driver with more than 25-years’ experience can be subjected to up to 18-months of extra training to operate on a similarly configured rail corridor in another state or territory," he says.

"Same class of locomotive, same drive controls, same payload, same steel track sitting on the same rock ballast – just driving a freight train in a different jurisdiction!

"Governments are falling over themselves to support enhanced automation in passenger rail and trucking. Meanwhile, our industry is largely subjected to prescriptive, onerous and often counterproductive regulations.

"There is little government focus on improving productivity in the sector. In contrast, numerous schemes have been implemented and promoted by government to improve road freight efficiency.

"For example, the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator [NHVR] recently approved the roll-out of a 36-metre B-quad truck weighting more than 105-tonnes transporting carrots from Victoria to Queensland!

"I ask the Council this simple question – how much bigger and heavier do you want trucks to get on our roads?"

Dalla Valle says rail seeks two main actions from ministers to correct situation:

  • invest more in dedicated freight lines, passing loops and rail sidings to help separate freight and passenger services and improve connectivity to ports. They must actively support the establishment of freight hubs to help shift freight from road to rail. These projects must also have active oversight at the ministerial level – they can’t be allowed to get bogged down in bureaucracies
  • refashion the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator to expand its vision and mandate beyond just safety compliance and enforcement. The vision of the rail regulator must also include a keen focus on efficiency and productivity – just like the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator.


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