A report launched by the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) has laid out four opportunities for government and industry to boost the share of rail in the national freight task.

The release coincides with ARA’s successful launch of a major rail industry conference, AusRAIL PLUS, in Sydney this week.

ARA Chief Executive Officer, Caroline Wilkie, said the report identified a range of factors that had traditionally limited mode shift to rail, and set out key recommendations to support improved modal share.

“It is no secret that moving more freight on rail delivers significant environmental and safety benefits for the community,” Ms Wilkie said.

“Despite the obvious benefits of greater use of rail, Australia has faced persistent challenges when it comes to meeting mode shift targets to support these goals.

“The report confirms the need for new approaches to help maximise the use of rail to support an efficient and reliable national supply chain that meets current and future needs.”

The report, prepared by GHD Advisory and entitled Freight Modal Shift: Mode Shift Impediments and Opportunities, offers an overview of the issues that have traditionally acted as impediments to mode shift, before revealing four key areas to increase freight modal share.

The described four major opportunities for government and industry to support rail as freight are:

  • Addressing policies on metropolitan networks shared by freight and passenger services
  • Improving land use planning to support the development of rail hubs
  • Supporting new rail terminals to achieve higher volumes
  • Lowering handling costs at ports and rail terminals

The ARA found that rail freight would benefit from measures that maximise train utilisation, take advantage of rail’s strength in meeting high-volume requirements, and ensure easy access to intermodal and logistics hubs.

Infrastructure improvements that enabled faster, more regular services and improved arrangements on rail lines shared with passenger services also presented opportunities for improved efficiency and productivity.

The report also found that different transport modes within the sector face very different regulatory and compliance costs, and action was required to ensure a level playing field for all.

Ms Wilkie said the report will act as a critical piece of research as the nation’s freight task grows.

“Rail will support the majority of the growth in demand over the next decade and will be critical to keeping national supply chains open and operating as efficiently as possible,” Ms Wilkie said.

“The report outlines a clear policy and investment agenda to support the growth of rail to meet this need in future years.”

The report was launched ahead of a rail freight and heavy haul conference event at AusRAIL PLUS.

Findings will inform further research to establish an efficient transport network for Australia, to be led by the ARA, Freight on Rail Group and Federal Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications.

The new research will be delivered by Synergies Economic Consulting together with the Australasian Centre for Rail Innovation.

To view the ARA’s report on the mode shift to rail freight, click here.

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