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HAVING spent the past two years chairing Centroc the region’s transport constraints are top of mind as I review the top-shelf work undertaken by our engineers in ensuring our roads are certified to allow heavy loads across the council-owned local road network.
Central NSW is the first region in Australia to have 100 per cent coverage according to the guidelines of the national heavy vehicle regulator.
This is really important as our transport industry needs to be confident they can legally undertake the freight task as effectively and efficiently as possible, including the last mile.
Innovation in truck design is remarkable. Bigger, safer trucks designed to take specific pallets or other container types. Heavier and higher loads with less pavement damage.
It is very clever and yet I wonder about trains.
How is it that Canada, with similar distances and a similar population, is so clever and innovative with trains and we are not?
They seem to be able to stack, load and short haul trains far more cheaply and efficiently than we do.
The nett effect is cheaper freight to port in Canada and less competitive goods and commodities leaving Australia.
It is particularly challenging for those of us trying to ship out of the Central West.
There is no B-double access over the mountains into Sydney. The gradients up and down the escarpment are too steep for big loads in icy conditions, even if they were permissible.
The answer could be trains, but for a multiplicity of reasons, including congestion in the Sydney rail network, reliable timetabling, coordination and the complication of train management leading to a lack of innovation, it is just not contemplated much by industry in this region.
Even so, we in the Central West are one of the top seven regions for gross regional product projected to 2031 by Infrastructure Australia.
Thinking about private industry building airports in Canberra and Toowomba, I wonder if government at all levels is not stepping in fast enough and innovatively enough to support industry by improving transport.
Transformational thinking and transformational infrastructure is required.
This is why the region needs to 100 per cent support inland rail.
As we deliver inland rail to help manage the growth in the freight task along the eastern seaboard, we should be looking to ensure innovation on loading, stacking, train length and speed.
NSW should also be thinking now about linking to ports using the innovation developed through the inland rail project.
This should include what needs to happen to the transport, particularly the rail network, to optimise outcomes for our state.
We need to be thinking now about links from the inland rail network to the Ports of Botany, Kembla and Newcastle.
Other important rail links like Blayney-Demondrille and Maldon-Dombarton will come into play.
Any improvements to the freight task will help passenger rail where the Bathurst Bullet has been a great success story.
Written by Bill West, president of CENTROC, a collaboration of Bathurst, Blayney, Boorowa, Cabonne, Cowra, Forbes, Lachlan, Lithgow, Mid Western Regional, Oberon, Orange, Parkes, Upper Lachlan, Weddin, Young and Central Tablelands Water councils.
This article first appeared on www.cowraguardian.com.au
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