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A proposed rail shuttle linking the Port of Melbourne to suburban freight hubs will cut transport costs by 10 per cent and reduce truck traffic in the inner city, according to the Victorian Government.
The plan for a shuttle, with the winning bidder expected to be announced later this year, comes as Melbourne’s container and general port faces increasing demand from Victoria’s growing economy and population explosion.
Experts predict that Victoria will have to move 300 per cent more annual freight in the next 30 years, pushing the Port of Melbourne towards capacity earlier than expected and putting pressure on the clogged and heavily populated inner city as more trucks are required to shift the goods.
The Port of Melbourne now handles almost three million containers worth $95 billion a year, 10 per cent more than Sydney and an eight per cent jump over the last 12 months.
Already, more than 10,000 heavy trucks a day are required to service the operations at the Port of Melbourne with residents reporting more heavy vehicles on residential streets and effects in noise and air quality.
This has fuelled tensions with residents and the port’s neighbouring councils of Melbourne, Port Phillip, Hobsons Bay and Maribyrnong, which want to see a reduction in truck numbers in residential areas.
The Andrews state government has called for expressions of interest for a $58 million port rail shuttle service to link the Port of Melbourne with freight hubs in the outer east, west and south of the city.
The shuttle would operate on the existing rail networks with dedicated routes to the Port of Melbourne that would move containers to the freight and business intermodal hubs in Truganina, Beveridge and Dandenong South.
Having a port-rail shuttle would reduce the need for trucks to visit the port — instead, trucks would deliver to, or pick up from, the business terminals.
It is understood there has been a strong interest in the project with the next round of the tendering process due to finish this month.
Victorian Minister for Roads and Ports, Luke Donnellan, tells Australia’s Ports Special Report that a new freight plan for the state developed by a ministerial freight reference group will be released soon.
“The port-rail shuttle project has the potential to change the way containerised freight is transported across Melbourne,” Donnellan says. “Rail will be a key component in ensuring the Port of Melbourne remains one of Victoria’s most productive assets in the coming decades,” the minister says.
He says the efficient movement of freight is a “critical building block” of Victoria’s productivity, connectedness and liveability.
“That’s why we’re developing a freight plan, which will outline the Victorian Government’s future policy, regulatory and infrastructure initiatives to build on Victoria’s freight advantage,” he says.
“We’re also delivering a number of projects that will support the movement of freight to and from the Port of Melbourne, including the Murray Basin rail project, Regional Rail Revival, West Gate Tunnel, and upgrading the M1, M80, CityLink and Tullamarine Freeway.”
Port of Melbourne chief executive, Brendan Bourke, told the Australian Logistics Council Forum 2018 in Sydney earlier this year that “we think rail needs to happen” for transporting land freight, now dependent on road, in and out of the port.
“Nearly all containers go by road,” he said. Victoria’s economy and population growth as well as efficiencies in the port’s supply chain were key drivers behind the port’s success, Bourke said.
March 2018 trade figures alone show trade at the Port of Melbourne was up 5.7 per cent on the 2017 corresponding quarter with 240,532 container movements for the quarter.
This also included 680,945 new cars, a 10 per cent increase on last year, making Melbourne the biggest-volume car-importing port in Australia.
Bourke said demand would continue to grow every year and by 2030 was expected to be about four million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units, or standard containers). By 2065, it was expected to reach about 12 million TEUs. He said collaboration with industry and the local community was vital for the port’s continued success.
“People are moving to Victoria at a fast rate, immigration is up and we need to cater for that demand,” Bourke told the seminar. “Container movements have increased higher than predicted in response to the booming economic activity.
“Strong investment in significant infrastructure projects is driving economic growth, new markets and supply-chain opportunities. We need to listen better and communicate more.
“How we connect across the supply chain and grow as a city port is fundamental to our shared vision to prosper and grow,” Bourke said.
Victorian Transport Association chief executive Peter Anderson describes the port as one of the best in the world but says it could lose the mantle if it fails to plan and continue to improve and invest in infrastructure.
Anderson says it is encouraging that despite fierce competition from offshore and other states, the Port of Melbourne continues to grow despite the economic shift from the manufacturing sector to services.
“This shift doesn’t mean we will be trading any less. In fact, quite the opposite when you consider Victoria is leading the national in terms of population growth, and the exponential growth of online sales of consumer goods from offshore,” he says.
“We need to strive for better connectivity where trucks, trains and ships interface and there is certainly a role for governments with respect to a port rail shuttle servicing the Port of Melbourne and reduce pressure on our road network.”
This article first appeared on www.theaustralian.com.au
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