Rail charges relief cannot hide disparity says Dalla Valle

Pacific National CEO renews call for equal treatment with road freight

Rail charges relief cannot hide disparity says Dalla Valle
Dean Dalla Valle


The Australian Rail Track Corporation’s (ARTC’s) financial relief to rail freight operators, while backed, serves to put into sharp relief unequal treatment of rail and road freight modes, according to Pacific National (PN).

In an intervention in response to the ARTC moves that include deferring the Consumer Price Index (CPI) increase due in July for three months, one that the company insists is focused on the approach by government rather than an attack on trucking, PN CEO Dean Dalla Valle sees a disparity.

"Pacific National very much welcomes the initiative by the Australian Government and ARTC Board to extend payment terms for rail freight operators for ARTC access charges from 30 to 90 days, not to mention the freeze in CPI increase from 1 July to 1 October," Dalla Valle says in a statement.

"It’s a great step in the right direction for interstate rail freight.

"However, we do need to point out that in the last 12 years, rail access charges on the ARTC interstate network have increased annually by CPI.

"In comparison, for the last four years the Transport and Infrastructure Council [TIC] of Australia have frozen heavy vehicle road user charges (2015-16 to 2019-20). This pricing setting has now been extended for another financial year (2020-21).

"The lack of competitive neutrality in pricing between rail and road freight has created an uneven playing field. It has been a large contributing factor in perverse outcomes like 98 per cent of containerised and palletised freight now being transported by truck between Sydney and Melbourne (equivalent to more than 700,000 B-double truck return trips on the Hume Highway each year).

"Pacific National understands and appreciates ARTC is a ‘wholly-owned Commonwealth company’ and, as such, must earn a rate of return for the Australian taxpayer.

"However, when the focus on delivering government dividends becomes all-consuming to the point of making interstate and regional rail freight uncompetitive with road (and increasingly coastal shipping) and ignoring the many beneficial externalities of rail freight, then current pricing models must be seriously looked at.

"This is happening at a time when Australians want less traffic congestion, reduced road accidents and fatalities (of which we have seen a spate of terrible incidents recently), lower vehicle emissions, and less ‘wear and tear’ on roads."

Dalla Valle argues charging disparity in killing Hume corridor rail freight, here

Dalla Valle also recognises a welcome recognition in the country generally of the crucial place of transport and logistics in the economy.

"For the first time in a long time, people have started to understand and appreciate the finely tuned nature and criticality of our nation’s transport supply chains," he says.

"They are the arteries supplying our economic lifeblood.

"The current pandemic has also shown the innate power of rail in being able to move bulk volumes of freight over large distances in a safe and efficient manner.

"For example, a single 1,800-metre interstate goods train service can haul 330 shipping containers, helping to reduce the number of truck – and people – movements across state borders."


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