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A dedicated freight rail line from Inland Rail to the Port of Brisbane (POB) "could take 2.4 million of trucks off the road by 2035", according to a Deloitte Access Economics (DAE) report for the port operator.
Separating the existing shared passenger and freight rail networks to link the Inland Rail project to the Port of Brisbane while allowing for double-stacking of containers is seen as both logical and essential by proponents.
But it was not budgeted for and the 2015 Inland Rail business case identified the existing infrastructure as being suitable until 2030.
Despite that, a $1.5 million joint federal and Queensland government study was announced in April 2018 and its findings are awaited eagerly by rail, logistics and port interests.
It is understood Queensland transport minister Mark Bailey’s office is seeking details on when and how the joint report, said at one stage to have been due mid-year, is to be released.
The 118-page DAE paper finds Queensland’s growing population and the subsequent freight task, climbing from 1.35 million TEU (twenty-foot equivalent shipping container) in 2018 to around 5 million in 2050, "necessitated an urgent shift from the region’s reliance on road freight".
Port of Brisbane CEO Roy Cummins, who described the lack of dedicated access to the port as the project’s "missing link", argues that if Queenslanders wanted to protect the liveability of their region, as well as create jobs and boost export capacity, then the time was right to connect Inland Rail to the Port of Brisbane.
"If we don’t directly connect Inland Rail to the Port of Brisbane, Queenslanders won’t get the jobs, but they will get the trucks," Cummins says.
"That’s because as Queensland’s population grows, so too that the freight task. The way our supply chain is established at present, that means a truck tsunami is heading our way.
"Currently, only 2 per cent of containerised freight comes to the Port of Brisbane via rail. The rest arrives on trucks.
"In 2018, that equated to four million trucks movements. With the current rail constraints in place, that number would increase to over 13 million by 2050.
"Deloitte’s paper shows that by building a dedicated freight rail connection to the Port of Brisbane and achieving a globally competitive rail modal share, we could remove 2.4 million truck movements from the local road network.
"A dedicated freight rail connection has already been acknowledged by all levels of Government as a key priority through the SEQ City Deal Proposition and it is viewed by industry as a game-changer for the Queensland economy.
"But its greatest benefits will be for the community – more jobs, safer roads for all commuters, less congestion and less emissions."
The DAE paper finds a 30 per cent rail modal share to the Port of Brisbane by 2035 could deliver:
The 2019 Inland Rail Conference, held jointly late last month by the Australian Logistics Council (ALC) and Australasian Railway Association (ARA), also rang a bell for an upgraded link as a matter of urgency.
The two most relevant points are:
The ALC responds to the DAE report, tweeting that the direct connection is "a vital aspect of fully realising the productivity and safety aspects of the project".
The need is accepted at federal advisory body Infrastructure Australia, which acknowledges the passenger-trail constraint and classes the initiative as a ‘high priority’ but with a five- to 10-year timeframe.
Meanwhile, Bailey insists a broader solution is needed, including for passenger rail.
Bailey says issues relating to the future rail connection to the Port of Brisbane and the Salisbury to Beaudesert future rail corridor also needed resolution along the Kagaru to Acacia Ridge section.
"Any increase in the number of freight trains passing through the Kagaru to Acacia Ridge section needs to be complemented by a passenger rail line from Salisbury to Beaudesert," Bailey adds of a region that is one of the fastest-growing in the state.
"It makes sense from a planning point of view to upgrade the rail corridor for freight and passenger services at the same time.
"Until improvements to the rail connection to the port can be resolved, and the passenger rail upgrade built, coal trains will need to continue using the existing West Moreton Rail System and freight container trains between Kagaru and Acacia Ridge would be limited to single stack."
The DAE report can be found here
The TransformingSEQ – The SEQ City Deal Proposition paper can be found here.
The full Inland Rail conference Statement of Conclusion can be found here.
This article first appeared on www.fullyloaded.com.au
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