69% of Australia’s freight is transported by rail. It is a very competitive sector, with high experience on long distances.
69% of Australia’s freight is transported by rail. This sector stands out for being very competitive, with a high experience in long distances. The infrastructure and rolling stock are adapted to the needs of the extractive industry, with heavier axle loads, longer trains and very solid solutions. The transit of raw materials in bulk represents 81% of the invoicing. Of this figure, the iron (53%) and the coal (33%) are the two minerals that are in the center of most operations.
Despite its reinforcement, this type of traffic is expected to progressively increase to 80% by 2030. For this reason, the country’s federal government has included specific items in its investments to improve productivity and support this growing demand. A clear example is the increased use of intermodal “inland ports”, as well as the railway’s weight as structural axis of the domestic market and raw material exports.
Murray Basin (Victoria) Freight Railway
One of the projects with the greatest impetus in the federal budgets for 2017-2018 is the modernization of the “Murray Basin” railway. The biennial item amounts to 20.2 million Australian dollars (€ 13.3 M), supporting the project’s total investment, which amounts to 440 million (€ 291.8 M). The planned improvements will have a positive impact on the infrastructure map, provided that more than 20,000 road trips to the Geelong, Melbourne and Portland Ports will be avoided per year due to its increased capacity. Thus, the regional freight industry will be revitalized by increasing export volumes until reaching an additional capacity of 50,000 tons per year.
The project involves standardizing 1,300 kilometers of network in the region of the Murray Basin, in the Northwest of Victoria. The planned works include the increase of the axle load throughout these lines, which will increase from 19 to 21 tons. Likewise, the Ararat-Maryborough line will be renewed, which will link the Port of Portland to this basin. This link will allow minerals to be transported to Hamilton by removing a long road link. In 2017, the second phase focused on changing the track gauge on the Yelta-Maryborough and Ouyen-Murrayville branches will be carried out. The third stage will be focused on converting the Sea Lake-Manangatang branches by 2018.
Bypass and Intermodal Terminal of Kalgoorlie-Boulder (W. Australia)
The State authorities have approved the “Western Australian Regional Freight Transport Network Plan” program, whose objective is to meet the growing volume of freight transport by 2031. The volume of operations is expected to grow to 126% by that date and to increase from 50 million tons to 130 million tons per year. One of the proposals to meet this increased traffic is to improve the Kalgoorlie-Boulder intermodal terminal.
“Melbourne-Brisbane Inland” Railway Network
This new 1,700-kilometer line will provide a high capacity link between Melbourne and Brisbane through the Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland regions; where, 700 kilometers will be newly built. The freight branch will improve the link of agricultural, mining and urban areas to the global market through ports so as to encourage the international trade. Inland Rail is a strategic infrastructure on the East Coast that will contribute to national productivity by reducing train operating costs and improving the service standard so as to meet the needs of major freight clients.
With this corridor, the Melbourne-Brisbane railway market share will increase to 62% by 2050. The Australian Government has entrusted the project to the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC); it will be financed through an investment of 8,400 million Australian dollars (€ 5,571 M) and additional public-private partnership (PPP) agreements.
This innovative funding approach will allow the Government to leverage the private sector experience in design, financing, construction and maintenance of the more technically complex section, the Toowoomba-Kagaru (Brisbane) section, which includes the construction of more than 8,000 meters of tunnel. Among the main advantages is the great reduction of distances, about 500 kilometers, between Brisbane Perth and Adelaine; and also the travel time between Melbourne and Brisbane, which will be of less than 24 hours. Therefore, the emission of 750,000 tons of carbon will be avoided by reducing 200,000 road trips per year. This will also be the first railway infrastructure linking the entire Southeastern area of Queensland to Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth; a further step towards Sydney’s highway decongestion. At an early stage, trains measuring up to 1,800 meters will be able to circulate, and, in a progressive way, the infrastructure will be prepared for trains of up to 3,600 meters, with standard double-height stacked containers.
Moorebank Intermodal Terminal (Southeastern Sydney Line)
One of the main projects being carried out in the Southeast of Sydney is the Moorebank intermodal terminal, which includes a railway link to the “Southern Sydney Freight Line (SSFL)”, with direct access to the site. This logistics park will operate as an open access facility with capacity for up to 1.05 million TEU (Twenty Foot Equivalent Units) per year and 500,000 interstate containers per year by 2030.
The terminal will increase productivity and improve transport links in Australia’s largest city, allowing import and export load passing through Sydney to and from Port Botany to be transported by railway rather than by road. The funding will be mostly private, up to 1,500 million Australian dollars (€ 1,024 M) provided by SIMTA (Sydney Intermodal Terminal Alliance), although it will benefit from a Commonwealth item, through the MIC, in the amount of 370 million (€ 252 M).
Boyanup-Capel and Donnybrook-Wilga Corridors (Western Australia)
Regarding the freight transport field, the potential of disused or non-operational railway corridors is also being studied. The objective is to meet regional development needs, including the long-term viability of the newly commissioned branches to provide emerging regional products and expansions of industrial parks. Initial planning investigations include the Boyanup-Capel and Donnybrook-Wilga Corridors.
Leonora-Esperance Line (West Australia)
The Goldfields Esperance and Southwestern regions of West Australia also have projects in place to improve freight transport; among them, the extension of the Leonora-Esperance Line. Consideration is given to partial track duplication works, as well as to the construction of new crossing loops, which will allow higher axle loads.
In the Southwest, the future growth of the Collie-Bunbury railway line has led to investments for its capacity improvement, therefore, the line between the Brunswick Junction and Bunbury Port will be doubled.
Investments in the Modernization of Brookfield Rail (West Australia)
Beside the projects counting on federal support, there is also another type of initiative, such as the Brookfield Rail private operator. At present, efforts are being made to increase the network’s capacity in order to meet the growing demand for open access multi-user railway infrastructure in the resource and agriculture sectors. In the Southern half of Western Australia, Brookfield Rail is committed to working with the industry and the government to strategically plan and increase capacity in this vital part of the transport infrastructure since it has recently completed investment projects in MidWest, Goldfields, Esperance, Wheatbelt and South West.
Intermodal Improvements in Perth
Perth authorities have approved the “Transport @ 3.5. Perth and Peel transport Plan” program. The strategic priorities include the improvement of regional links to the national and international markets. To this end, a more efficient and modern freight network is sought. The “Perth Freight Transport Network Plan” is implemented in this context, highlighting the future investments in transport means. Among them, a strategic freight corridor from Muchea to the inner and outer accesses of the “Fremantle” Port, which is the largest one and with the most traffic in the country.