FLOODS that have cut the transcontinental rail line until at least Sunday and closed major road freight links have prompted fresh calls for greater transport and infrastructure resilience.

Unseasonal rainfall in parts of the Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia – with some areas receiving average annual totals in a matter of hours – has played havoc with transport links. Flooding cut rail connections on the Nullarbor, with the Australian Rail Track Corporation closing the track and suspending services on Sunday night (10 March).

ARTC says the Indian Pacific passenger train will not resume before this Sunday (17 March) and it will not be possible to asses any possible track damage until water subsides.

The Great Northern Highway was closed in both directions between Fitzroy Crossing and Halls Creek, while the Eyre Highway between Norman and Eucla re-opened this morning after overnight and earlier closures – but the Bureau of Meteorology warned more rain was on the way. The Great Central Road and the Victoria Highway (WA-NT) were also closed.

The Western Roads Federation, representing WA road transport operators, has re-iterated calls for the federal government to “take freight resilience seriously”.

Last October, WA’s Shipping and Supply Chain Taskforce recommended policy and regulatory reforms to support Australian-owned shipping lines competing in domestic sea-freight work. The taskforce, established in March 2022, had a mandate to examine the resilience of the state’s shipping industry and vital supply chains after floods severed the main east-west rail line in late January of the same year.

Shipping lines contact by DCN reported “no real increase” in demand for east-west coastal slots arising from the current landside disruptions.