Maritime / Maritime & Transport / Rail

Queensland’s rail freight efficiency revival

North Coast Line near Gloucester in NSW. Image source: Wikipedia

North Coast Line near Gloucester in NSW.
Image source: Wikipedia

Queensland has become the latest state to unveil a new strategy for improving freight networks in anticipation of rapid growth in the sector.

Titled ‘Moving Freight’, the framework hopes to prepare the state for a predicted 89 per cent rise in freight task by 2026, with rail development playing a prominent role.

The Queensland government forecast demands on the freight network will jump from 871 million tonnes in 2010-11 to 1,741 million tonnes within 12 years.

As such, Moving Freight provides 38 actions that authorities will take to ensure better access, enhanced productivity and further investment in the industry.

Improving the rail system

The strategy outlines clear priorities for the state’s freight network, and expanding the use of rail is top of that list.

In a summary of key actions, the government said it aims to:

·      Provide appropriate priority for rail freight
·      Boost regional rail infrastructure both for agricultural purposes and general freight
·      Enhance the North Coast Line, Western and South Western rail systems, revitalising the Mount Isa to Townsville rail corridor

Other desired outcomes in the framework include engaging industry for better safety results, improving freight policy and information, and facilitating more investment in infrastructure.

Queensland freight movements

Coal currently dominates Queensland’s exports, accounting for 84.2 per cent of its outward international trade in 2012-13. Metal ores and scrap comprised 7.6 per cent.

Hay Point and Gladstone remain the state’s most busy ports in terms of trading, with 96.5 million tonnes and 85.2 million tonnes of throughput over the last financial year.

Demand for Queensland’s mining commodities from China, India and other economies are expected to continue driving export growth, which will lead to significant expansion of freight requirements.

Regions set to see the biggest rise in freight movement include the resources-rich Surat, Bowen and Cooper basins, as well as the North West Queensland Minerals Province.

Underutilised rail infrastructure

Moving Freight claims there is latent capacity across sections of Queensland’s rail network that could help the state cope with increases to load capacities.

“The inherent characteristics of rail make it well suited to emerging freight demands across the state,” it reads.

“Ideally, rail is suited to freight tasks that are high volume, point-to-point pick up and delivery over long distances.”

Attracting freight to rail could therefore have a number of benefits for the state, such as reducing road congestion, boosting environmental credentials and improving safety statistics.

ARA backs Moving Freight

The Australasian Railway Association (ARA) has backed the development of the strategy, describing it as “encouraging”.

Chief executive officer of the organisation Bryan Nye said the Newman government was taking a strong stance on freight improvements.

“We particularly endorse the pre-eminence given to the issue of road congestion by seeking to expand the use of rail freight,” he explained.

Rail Industry Fundamentals“The ARA also welcomes the Newman government’s ongoing support for the Inland Rail, a project that will take seven hours off transit times from Melbourne to Brisbane, remove trucks from the Pacific, Newell and Hume Highways and boost regional development along the entire 1,700km route.”

According to the ARA, the importance of keeping rail freight competitive against road routes is clear, especially in areas serviced by the Bruce Highway and the North Coast Line.

Thus, the association is also supportive of the state government’s clear approach to freight infrastructure investment projects that will offer investors guidance over the short, medium and long term.

“It is encouraging to see the Queensland government make the critical steps needed to future proof key infrastructure projects and ensure a more efficient freight network, especially around key freight hubs such as the Port of Brisbane and intermodal terminals,” Mr Nye concluded.

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