It's pretty obvious a lot of things have contributed to Aurizon exiting the intermodal business and many are already well covered here. This is my few cents worth after having skimmed through this lengthy thread and combined it with reading through other threads such as the Mt Isa Line decay in rail traffic and Aurizon either exiting or losing other business some of which is bulk and others intermodal.
Aurizon definitely has lost its way I believe for the medium to longer term in focusing solely on large bulk traffic. Yes its healthy business now but Aurizon and others have already seen the impacts that can happen overnight with drops in commodity prices (iron ore/coal) and what that did and still could do if the Chinese economy retracts and to me that seems quite possible.
As the largest train operating company in the country with an increasingly less diverse portfolio I'd say Aurizon's short term focus is high risk. (I hope I'm wrong).
Certainly the company has to make money and so it should, but rarely, given the cost of capital, the logistics and other issues involved means it is rare that railways are able to be agile enough to be able to come in make a quick buck and then move on.
The fact that Aurizon only very recently made a very substantial investment in a lot of new intermodal equipment, entered into a very recent new regional intermodal haul in NSW and then suddenly overnight decides to exit the intermodal business really smacks of a chaotic and/or short term reactionary culture compared to what I see as a much longer term strategic perspective being taken by the likes of SSR, SCT and even PN.
For example no one goes out and acquires a substantial chunk of brand new intermodal fleet, spends big dollars setting up major terminals in Forrestfield and Dynon etc without some major investigation and market analysis!!! Why would you be chasing new intermodal business in NSW in very recent times but be walking away from very significant business on a number of hauls in Queensland. That smacks of poor decision making, no medium/long term strategy etc.
If we take SCT. It has invested in new terminals, equipment etc to establish the Brisbane to Melbourne operation based on its tried and proven business model operating out of Parkes, Melbourne and Adelaide to WA. We understand it’s not been easy in making that leap with reports of locomotive reliability/availability posing a headache, but the business has grown and finally SCT has been able to introduce other classes of locomotives (hopefully) to ease one of its key headaches. Obviously SCT is likely to gain from Aurizon’s exit and so of course is PN but to me that’s secondary for this discussion and good on them
SSR has rapidly expanded now, even operating out of NSW and into Victoria in grain and acquiring significant additional resources to do it and of course QUBE has done the same, all using their own well developed business model. QUBE has also moved into broad gauge haulage of grain in Victoria but the business fits their business model and will be even better so after the gauge conversion in Victoria.
But I see Aurizon as still having legacy issues running through it from its old QR days. In another post I quoted the example of train operation comparisons between Sydney and Melbourne centred on Junee. Both PN and QUBE have a substantial amount of activity in Junee. It is not only a crew change point for Sydney-Melbourne services but for both companies trains are originated there and hence additional operating support such as an area ops co-ordinator, cars to move crews around etc is what you would expect to see.
But what for Aurizon in Junee??? It is for them simply a crew change point. Crews simply book/book off and stay at the Crossing Motel which is across the road from the yard. So why does Aurizon have an office in town, two very swish SUV vehicles for what??? To generate business and facilitate operations??? Hardly. Small detail I know but replicate that type of approach all around Aurizon’s operations (and not just intermodal either) and you start to really add costs well beyond what yr competitors are doing.
A colleague told me as well that management appears in the way it works to be very remote from the day to day operations which surprises me given that at 1 point North American expertise that was brought in. Those guys are known to immerse themselves in minute detail to look for inefficiency and to make improvements. It was said and I’M NOT UNION bashing, that resourcing at intermodal terminals appears higher than its competitors so again a real loss of attention to detail about what’s happening on the ground. That message certainly seems to be coming thru from other posters in this thread.
What I still cannot understand and I know it’s not easy, is how little market share rail still has between Brisbane and Melbourne and hence why hasn’t Aurizon been able to grow that market especially given that you think purely from a historical perspective that it should know the market very well especially.