The issue with returning fuel haulage to rail is nothing to do with PN...or the oil companies. It's to do with the way road hauliers like Linfox, Toll, Scotts, Finemores approach the opportunity to haul fuel. They take on the totality of the task. Loading tankers, organising the logistics of the distribution, unloading fuel, and taking the risk away from their customer (Shell, BP, Caltex, etc.) and on it goes.
It's not a case of loading up a rake of tankers at Corio or Sandown. How is PN (or Aurizon) going to get the fuel from the bulking handling point at, say, Bomen to the servos that were once serviced by that particular point? They don't have a supply chain.
Of course, what they could do is approach the Linfox's of the world with a business case outlining how they could work a joint venture rather than trying to go 'heads up' against them (a fight the rail companies will NEVER win).
Rail will never recover until they adopt a new concept than takes 'supply chain' into account and not just 'hauling freight'. I've worked at Linfox for a long time and it's sad to see rail just not really having any idea of how to compete with road.
People tell me all the time that freight is 'time sensitive' and some is but, here's a surprise, freight performance is not really about time, it's almost always about reliability. In other words, deliver my freight when you say you will not +/- 3 days. I sold rail freight solutions into the market and reliability ALWAYS came into the equation.