PACIFIC National CEO Dean Dalla Valle said less than 1% of 20 million tonnes of palletised and containerised freight transported between Melbourne and Sydney is now hauled by trains.
“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,” Mr Dalla Valle said.
Mr Dalla Valle said excessive government charges applied to rail freight services and a build-up of red tape is suffocating the haulage of goods by rail between Australia’s two biggest cities.
The Australian government taxes operators like Pacific National an ‘access charge’ to run freight trains on railways. Current access charges do not account for extensive taxpayer funding of roads (and hence support for trucks) compared to significant commercial demands on rail freight.
Mr Dalla Valle said to resuscitate rail freight between Melbourne and Sydney, government must aim for an equal volume share of rail and road freight by 2021.
“To achieve a minimum 50:50 freight volume share between rail and road, government access charges must be abolished on the rail corridor between the two cities,” said Mr Dalla Valle.
“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,” he said.
“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,” said Mr Dalla Valle.
Pacific National calculated access costs of hauling a 20-foot container between Melbourne and Sydney by a freight train or B-double to be $94 and $55, respectively.
“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,” said Mr Dalla Valle.
Pacific National estimates increasing the rail freight share between Melbourne and Sydney to 50% would help save four lives and $300-million in road accident costs on the Hume Highway each year. Annual vehicle emissions along the highway would be reduced by 430,000 tonnes.