Support, concern surround potential rail investment in Australia

12.05.2017

The Australian government is investing A$20 billion in its rail system.  It is expected to be completed by 2024-25. The Government has committed to finance the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail project by a combination of an additional A$8.4 billion equity investment in the Australian Rail Track Corporation and a public private partnership for the most complex elements of the project. Inland Rail will provide a high-capacity freight link between Melbourne and Brisbane through regional Australia to better connect our products to domestic and international markets.

Many Australian ag groups support the investment but also urge for awareness of other areas of the grain industry that need improvement.

“While the Inland Rail Project is a major step forward, Australia needs a national freight and supply chain strategy that is comprehensive, long term and includes the requirements of the grains industry in moving a crop of more than 62 million tonnes harvested last season efficiently and cost effectively from farms to market,” said David McKeon, general manager of GrainGrowers’ Policy and Innovation. “There’s been much talk over many years about the cost of agricultural supply chains and the urgent need for investment. Given the federal government’s commitment to identifying the national freight and supply chain priorities, we want to make sure agriculture receives priority planning, investment and regulatory improvements which will underpin this vital export industry and indeed the Australian economy.”

Concerns about land use and its impact on farmers in the affected areas were voiced.

“QFF principally welcome the inland rail project as it will deliver sector-wide benefits, but some concerns about the Queensland corridor, namely the impact on prime agricultural land and key flood plains, are yet to be resolved,” said Stuart Armitage, president of the Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF). “It is essential with a project of such significance and importance that farmers and regional communities’ concerns are heard and where possible accommodated. QFF will be resolute in representing interests of farmers affected by the inland rail project.”

Derek Schoen, president of the NSW Farmers’ Association, believes the inland rail will help lessen transport costs for ag producers by providing better access to alternative ports, and creating more competition between the ports.

“When a third of your costs are taken up in transport, this means better farm gate returns,” Schoen said. “The project will also save lives and improve congestion by getting freight off roads and onto rail.”
Additional commitments to rail made in the 2017–18 budget:

  •     A$500 million to upgrade regional rail networks in Victoria;
  •     A$792 million for Perth Metronet;
  •     A$30 million toward development of a business case for Melbourne Airport Rail Link;
  •     A$20.2 million for Murray Basin Rail building on previous commitment, and
  •     A$20 million to progress business cases for faster rail connections between major cities and surrounding regional centers.


The Australian government said the 2017–18 budget demonstrates its commitment to transform Australia's freight and passenger networks to meet Australia’s growing transport needs, improve liveability and boost national productivity.


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