Rail Express Oliver Probert
Rail Access Charges Need Review
Victor P Taffa
Pacific National CEO Dean Dalla Valle has called for access charges on the Sydney-Melbourne rail corridor to be abolished to address a substantial competitive advantage enjoyed by road operators along the busy route.
Mr. Dalla Valle on July 29 said less than 1 % of the 20 million tonnes of palletised and containerised freight transported between Melbourne and Sydney is now hauled by trains.
Pacific National analysis calculated the access costs of hauling a 20-foot container between Melbourne and Sydney by a freight train as $94, compared to just $55 on the back of a B-double truck.
“In terms of accessing the freight corridor between Melbourne and Sydney, that’s a massive 70 % cost penalty for rail this rips the guts out of our industry.” Mr. Dalla Valle said.
This access charge discrepancy occurs because rail charges have been designed to properly reflect the cost of maintaining that infrastructure, while this mechanism is not properly reflected in access charges to truck operators, with the extra maintenance and repair costs for roads made up by taxpayers.
Mr. Dalla Valle said without immediate action from the government, road could soon increase its share of Sydney-Melbourne freight to 100 %.
“Government access charges must be abolished on the rail corridor between the two cities.” Mr. Dalla Valle said.
“Bizarrely, at a time when Australians want safer roads, less traffic congestion during their daily commute, reduced vehicle emissions, and properly maintained roads, government policies are geared to rolling out bigger and heavier trucks on more roads.”
“Australia’s busiest freight corridor by volume has become a conveyor belt of 700,000 B-double equivalent return truck trips each year along the Hume Highway. Now the Hume Highway is fully duplicated, I suspect governments in the future will allow access for even bigger trucks on the freeway, including A-doubles and B-triples.”
Mr. Dalla Valle’s dramatic call came just days after the Coalition launched its heavy vehicle road user charging pilot.
“Government will continue to prioritise progress on reforms to improve infrastructure investment, while testing alternative options to replace heavy vehicle registration fees and fuel-based charges.” Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said on 25 July.
“Decisions to implement a new way of collecting heavy vehicle charges may be part of a potential future stage of Heavy Vehicle Road Reform. These decisions are likely to be a number of years away and will take on board the real-life experience of industry following a full evaluation of the trials.”
Sydney-Melbourne Railway Line
Sydney-Melbourne Standard Gauge Railway Line opened on 12 April 1962 by Prime Minister Robert Menzies (Knighted in 1963).
First freight train operated on 3 January 1962 and the first passenger train on 16 April 1962.
After the standard gauge line opened in 1962, freight tonnage increased year on year until 1973.
Sydney-Melbourne Railway corridor needs 4 straight continuous electrified tracks to reverse the decline in freight haulage.
4 straight continuous electrified tracks also mean that double stack and triple stack freight trains are not required. 4 tracks also allow for shorter freight trains as they used to be.
Freight trains used to be a shorter length and have got longer due to cost pressures by rail operators and a lack of investment in railways by all governments.
4 straight continuous electrified means a faster freight service that provides a quicker turn around time for rail operators which results in an increased level of freight being hauled on the corridor.
- Trains cannot operate without railway tracks.
- Cars cannot drive without road lanes.
- Railway Tracks are to Trains as Road Lanes are to Cars.
4 straight continuous electrified tracks enable a variety of rail services to use the corridor and return an investment to Federal, State and Territory Governments.
Services to use the corridor includes:
- Freight Trains,
- Capital City-Capital City High Speed Rail at 500 Km/h (Japan’s Bullet Train),
- XPT Services (Or a newer train),
- V/Line Services (Or a newer train).
As the Sydney-Melbourne air route is the world’s 5th busiest, the Sydney-Melbourne rail corridor has plenty of scope for expansion that will force real competition on all Airlines.
High Speed Rail means a Capital City-Capital City, Door-to Door service rather than passengers being treated as second class citizens.
Flinders Street Railway Station, Melbourne, Victoria