QUBE general manager Maurice James has heaped praise upon the New South Wales government for supporting the growth of rail in and around Port Botany.

He contrasted this performance with Melbourne where he argued too little had been done to reduce the dependence upon trucks.

“What we have seen in Australia for the last five to 10 years is one government with a focus on rail and that has been the New South Wales government,” Mr James said.

“What we’ve seen in New South Wales is a number of initiatives to improve modal share in our ports driving the infrastructure and encouragement of infrastructure in intermodals in Sydney.”

Mr James noted the NSW government had pushed the federal government to commit to duplication of the track into Port Botany

“I contrast that with Victoria over the last 10 years until the last six to 12 months that wasn’t really focussed on rail in a port sense,” he said.

“We had a port authority in government ownership that really didn’t believe in metro port shuttles.”

Times were, he said, finally changing.

“We now have a privatised port (of Melbourne) with, as part of legislation, an objective to go back to government with a rail strategy and it is very encouraging to hear,” Mr James said.

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Nationwide, Mr James said rail had been efficient when it had been vertically-integrated, particularly evidenced by the mining industry.

“The reality is the majority of the rail networks are fragmented, multi-user, multi-customer networks,” he said.

“What we have seen are governments generally rating rail much lower than road. We heard [earlier], road upgrades are often driven by passengers or by votes and rail wasn’t driven by that.”

Mr James said more freight on rail was an important part of ports’ social licence to operate.

“What we’ve seen is ports being privatised, we’ve seen ports with plans to significantly increase their volume,” he said.

“Their social licence to operate in the communities around them is driving and will drive a modal shift around road to rail in order to satisfy that social licence. “Rail will never exceed road in and out of our ports. It will though, play its part in significantly growing the volumes that go in and out of our ports.”

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