Rail industry outrage at price hike
THE federal Government is putting Australia's $4 billion rail freight industry in jeopardy following a proposal by the government-owned Australian Rail Track Corporation to lift access prices by 10 per cent on one of the nation's most important rail corridors.
Access pricing accounts for up to 30 per cent of the rail industry's costs, compared with 5 per cent for road industry.
If the ARTC increases access pricing on the east-west corridor, it will widen the gap between the cost of freight on road and rail, and encourage customers to keep using road.
For each container moving across the country, road operators pay a fraction of the cost to use the road relative to what rail operators pay to use the track.
Sources in the rail industry say the price differential is because of the power of the trucking lobby group in Canberra, which is renowned for its generous political donations and the fact that transport ministers set truck charges.
The Australasian Railway Association chief executive Bryan Nye argues that continuing subsidisation of the trucking industry will result in a significant increase in the number of trucks, in particular B-Doubles, on the road.
"This is freight that could go by rail, relieving congestion on roads, reducing the number of deaths on roads and protecting the environment. One train can remove up to 150 B-Doubles off the Hume Highway between Melbourne and Sydney
," Mr Nye said last year.
Mr Telford said the Government needed to encourage rail industry reform, as well as bring rail access charges down - not up - to align them with road.
"The Government also needs to align its transport policy with its environmental and social policies, realising the benefits of rail."
The ARA estimated road transport produces 12 per cent and rail transport 0.3 per cent of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions.
Rail carries 12 per cent of the freight between Sydney and Adelaide, while road carries 81 per cent; from Melbourne to Adelaide rail carries 12 per cent, compared with road's 88 per cent; between Cairns and Brisbane rail carries 30 per cent and road 70 per cent; and between Brisbane and Sydney, rail carries 13 per cent of freight while road carries 87 per cent.