Australia, Transport News

WRF CEO calls for change after long weekend near miss

The WRF CEO says governments must act now to protect Australian freight routes against severe weather events

Western Roads Federation (WRF) CEO Cam Dumesny has warned the industry of the need to protect vulnerable freight routes around the nation following a “near miss” on the long weekend.

On the recent Australia Day public holiday long weekend, Dumesny says “Australia’s highly vulnerable trans-national freight links were again exposed”.

As monsoons, ex-tropical cyclones and thunderstorms raged on, Dumesny says these weather events combined to cut or threaten road and rail links across the country.

While the road and rail industry has put in place measures to adapt to the disruptions, Dumesny says the federal government’s lack of action on this issue is costing the nation and the supply chain.

He says that most measures put in place currently mean most consumers and businesses may not even notice the impacts, which is “a tribute to the professionalism of the road and rail logistics industry”.

“However, it’s not a tribute to governments who, despite parliamentary enquiries about similar events, have learnt nothing and done even less about freight disruptions,” Dumesny told ATN.

“The lack of action on addressing highly vulnerable transnational freight routes is reflective of an overall failure of governments to comprehend the critical importance of the supply chains and logistics to the economy and national security.”

The history of these freight route disruptions started in January 2020 when a Perth to Adelaide highway was closed for more than 10 days due to bushfires. Within that period, the Perth to Darwin highway was also closed due to wet season flooding.

In January 2022, the Adelaide to Darwin highway was closed alongside rail for more than four weeks due to flooding, forcing a detour via NSW and Queensland.

In the same month, flooding briefly disrupted the Perth to Adelaide highway while the rail line was closed for more than four weeks.

Last year, the Perth to Darwin route was closed for several months when the bridge was washed away, forcing a 10,000km detour.

Dumesny says these closures have led to an ongoing cost of living crisis, have had an impact on manufacturers leaving Australia and lowered the supply chain’s ability to provide social equity to remote and regional communities.

“While governments are to be commended on some infrastructure investments, the neglect of productivity and the ongoing industry skills shortages must be addressed,” Dumesny says.

“This latest even warning should serve as a call to action to governments to work with industry on productivity, skills and resilience measures that can help industry and all Australians.”

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