VICTORIAN ports and freight minister Melissa Horne says the Mode Shift Incentive Scheme is critical in getting more containers off roads and onto rail near the Port of Melbourne.

Ms Horne recently told the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee about the challenges of boosting the proportion of freight on rail.

“When I started working in transport more than 10 years ago, this has always been a bit of a Holy Grail for government policy—to be able to shift more and more freight onto the rail network—and so having a Mode Shift Incentive Scheme is actually critical to be able to provide that incentive,” she said. “This year’s budget extends the mode shift incentive scheme for a further 12 months, and that is about again encouraging industry to shift more freight from road to rail.”

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Ms Horne said the extra investment would support about 42 500, TEU containers by rail, and that would convert to about 17 000 truck trips off roads.

“We expect this scheme to facilitate… about 43 500 TEUs for a total rebate of about $3.5m,” she said.

“The recipients of that funding are Iron Horse Intermodal in Mildura, which is now called Seaway Intermodal—I met with the head of that just last week—Westvic Containers in Warrnambool, Linx Portlink in Tocumwal and Wimmera Container Line in Dooen, near Horsham.”

Ms Horne said the government was also investigating the former Melbourne Market site for freight use to give transport operators and stevedores space to handle “rapidly growing freight volumes”.

“To ensure we get more freight onto rail the budget extends the mode shift incentive scheme, which for over 10 years has made rail more attractive than road for regional exporters to move their containerised produce and manufactured goods to port,” she said.

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