Port Botany Rail Line Duplication Infrastructure Priority List

Infrastructure Australia has added the Port Botany Rail Line Duplication and Cabramatta Passing Loop project to its Infrastructure Priority List, but will not include Stage 2 of the Haughton River Pipeline. 

The Priority List is a collaborative document, developed using data from the 2019 Australian Infrastructure Audit and submissions from all levels of governments, industry and the community.

In welcoming the two newly-included projects to the list, Infrastructure Australia (IA) Chief Executive, Romilly Madew, drew specific attention to the critical role Port Botany plays as Sydney’s primary container port.

“Port Botany handles 99 per cent of NSW’s container demand, making it a critical international gateway for Australia and a backbone asset for economic product within Sydney and New South Wales,” Ms Madew said.

“With demand only increasing, it is vital that Port Botany maintains throughput capacity to meet container growth over the long term.”

The NSW Ports Master Plan estimated that container movements through Port Botany would grow from 2.3 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in 2015 to between 7.5 million and 8.4 million TEUs by 2045.

Currently, part of the Port Botany Line has only a single track. IA determined that as demand for the import and export of freight increases, the single track will create a bottleneck that would significantly impact the broader Sydney freight rail network.

In particular, demand is expected to exceed capacity on the Southern Sydney Freight Line by 2023, and on the Port Botany Rail Line from 2026.

To address constraint and reliability issues, the project, which is being delivered by the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC), aims to upgrade the capacity of the Port Botany Rail Line by duplicating 2.9km of the line, while the construction of a passing loop at Cabramatta on the Southern Sydney Freight Line will allow freight trains travelling in either direction to pass each other.

Infrastructure Australia’s evaluation of the ARTC business case found that there is strong strategic merit for the project as it supports the NSW Government’s aim to increase the mode share of containers being moved by rail to and from Port Botany.

“Currently more than 80 per cent of containers to and from Port Botany are transported by road,” Ms Madew said.

“This worsens congestion on the Sydney road network, particularly in and around the already constrained Port Botany precinct, which includes Sydney Airport and the M5 Motorway.”

Infrastructure Australia’s evaluation found that undertaking both project components concurrently provides a supply chain solution necessary to encourage freight owners to transport more containers by rail and help reduce road congestion.

The project is also expected to provide the capacity required to meet forecast rail demand generated by the Moorebank Intermodal Terminal, Enfield Intermodal Terminal, the St Marys Intermodal Terminal (from 2022), and future terminals, including a site planned near Western Sydney Airport.

Delivery of projects must now be fast-tracked: ALC

The Australian Logistics Council (ALC) has welcomed the inclusion of the two projects on the Priority List, and said it hoped governments would now work with industry to expedite its delivery. 

ALC CEO, Kirk Coningham, said the duplication of the rail line and the construction of the Cabramatta Passing Loop were central to industry’s efforts to accommodate growing freight volumes at Port Botany, enhance the reliability of the freight network and help to alleviate road congestion.

“Completing the duplication of the remaining 2.9km single track section of the Botany Line between Mascot and Botany and constructing a new passing loop on the Southern Sydney Freight Line at Cabramatta will boost the capacity of the network by allowing freight trains up to 1,300 metres in length to pass each other,” Mr Coningham said.

“Rail will play an increasingly important role in meeting Sydney’s growing freight task, thanks to an expanding network of intermodal facilities, including the Moorebank Intermodal Terminal and the Enfield Intermodal Logistics Centre.”

Haughton River Pipeline Stage 2 business case assessment finalised

Infrastructure Australia also concluded its independent evaluation of the Haughton River Pipeline Stage Two project, but determined it will not include the project on the Infrastructure Australia Priority List at this time.

Ms Madew explained that the conclusion reached by the independent advisor comes after a rigorous assessment process.

“We recognise the growing population of Townsville is putting pressure on existing water infrastructure,” Ms Madew said.

“We applaud Townsville City Council for delivering Stage 1 of the Haughton River Pipeline in order to address these water security problems for Townsville residents.”

Stage 1 of the Haughton River project involves construction of a new pipeline and the upgrade of a pump station, and is expected to be completed by the end of 2021.

“Based on the business case presented to us for Stage 2, once these Stage 1 works are delivered there was no clear requirement for Stage 2 works at this time,” Ms Madew said.

Infrastructure Australia’s evaluation summary of Haughton River Stage 2 not only states that Townsville’s water supply issue will be addressed by Stage 1, it also identifies a risk of water bill increases to Townsville water consumers as the result of Stage 2 proceeding.

If the project proceeds, Infrastructure Australia encourages the proponent to undertake and publish a Post Completion Review of the project to assess the extent to which the expected benefits and costs have been realised.

View the full evaluation summary of the Port Botany Rail Line Duplication and Cabramatta Passing Loop projects here, and of the Haughton River Pipeline Stage 2 project here.

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