Pacific National says it's 'now or never' to upgrade NSW rail freight infrastructure

CRITICAL: Pacific National says NSW's rail freight infrastructure needs upgrading within the next four years to compete with the Inland Rail.
CRITICAL: Pacific National says NSW's rail freight infrastructure needs upgrading within the next four years to compete with the Inland Rail.

Pacific National, Australia's largest rail freight operator, has warned the NSW Government it risks losing future export container volumes to the ports of Melbourne and Brisbane if critical rail freight infrastructure is not upgraded or built within the next four years.

Pacific National chief executive Dean Dalla Valle said the efficient running of regional freight trains in and out of Port Botany in Sydney needs to be a top priority for the NSW Government in its third term.

"It's now or never," he said.

"I'm confident the re-elected Berejiklian-Barilaro government has the will, expertise and funding to fix a longstanding problem for rail freight movements in NSW."

Mr Dalla Valle said running a freight train loaded with containers from country NSW over the Great Dividing Range into Sydney will become too inefficient, unreliable and hence costly within four years, forcing many regional exporters to bypass Port Botany.

"Without timely upgrades to the state's rail freight network, containerised goods and commodities from the Riverina will be more efficiently hauled to Port of Melbourne, while produce from northern and north-western NSW will be transported to Port of Brisbane," he said.

Mr Dalla Valle said once Pacific National's Parkes Logistics Terminal is fully up and running, 450,000-plus shipping containers from around Australia will be consolidated in Central NSW.

"From Parkes, these containers can make their way to the port of Melbourne or Brisbane. The future Inland Rail will make these haulage operations even more efficient," he said.

"The NSW Government needs to be acutely aware of these future competitive dynamics."

He said the equation is "very simple for freight - it flows along the path of least resistance; both in terms of cost and reliability of train services".

"If a freight train delayed by congestion misses a loading window for containers at Port Botany, then exporters suffer financial penalties and a loss of goodwill with clients," said Mr Dalla Valle.

Pacific National estimates for every 1000 shipping containers gravitating to ports in Victoria and Queensland up to 10 jobs in NSW are lost.

Jobs associated with freight and logistics - including running a port - include train and truck drivers, container lift operators (quayside cranes and straddle carriers), fork lift drivers, stevedore staff, freight forwarders, warehouse administration, tradespeople and suppliers.

Mr Dalla Valle said the NSW Government has several infrastructure and policy levers that must be pulled quickly to protect jobs and unleash the full potential of the state's rail supply chain.

In a statement released to the Parkes Champion Post, Pacific National listed what needs urgent attention:

  • Fast-track duplication of the remaining 2.9-kilometre section of single line between Mascot and Botany.
  • Construction of extra passing loops on both the Country Regional Network and Metropolitan Freight Network to help trains (both freight and passenger) overtake and run separately.
  • Removal of 'steam age era' rules which dictate the operational requirements of freight trains on the NSW rail network.
  • Pricing reform for freight trains accessing the Sydney rail network to help shift more freight from road to rail.
  • Establishing a system whereby rail freight operators have greater transparency and certainty of access to tight delivery windows at Port Botany.