Australians are spending more time than ever sitting in traffic. Congestion is costing the country over $16 billion in 2015 and by 2030 is predicted to reach between $27.7–37.3 billion. Congestion increases pollution, the cost of living and decreases livability.
Freight is a big part of ensuring Australia’s cities are productive, livable and sustainable.
Ports are the trade gateway of this country with over 98 per cent of Australia’s trade moving through our ports to the blue highway. Over 80 per cent of goods arriving and departing Australia’s Ports move by truck that equates to 78 per cent of our trade moving along roads near Ports each year.
Freight connectivity should use the strengths of each mode; the flexibility of trucking, connectivity of rail and capacity of shipping. Better connectivity can help reduce city congestion, lower the cost of living and make Australia more competitive.
Australia’s population is growing and the amount of freight we bring into the country each year is growing even faster. That means that the challenges facing us today will only be compounded in the future if we do not adequately address them. But this is also an opportunity for Australians to build a world class freight network for ourselves making us, more efficient, competitive, sustainable and self-reliant.
What freight challenges are adding to city congestion?
Road configuration around Ports
Many of our major ports and intermodal terminals are not connected by roads that can support high productivity vehicles. This leads to more and smaller trucks on the road leaving the port/terminal which eventually increases costs to Australians, increases congestion on our roads and has poorer environmental outcomes.
If road corridors connecting Ports allowed for bigger more efficient trucks to operate safely, our roads could gain efficiencies of up to 50 per cent.
Under utilisation of Rail
Rail is the most efficient form of overland freight. But freight trains also must compete for track space with passenger trains which take priority.
Rail is not used to its potential for a few reasons:
- lack of adequate below-rail infrastructure
- lack of flexibility in train windows and unreliable train departure and arrival times
- conflicts with passenger movements on the same lines
- inconsistent state and territory network regulations and operating conditions
- maintenance and investment costs
What changes need to occur to improve transport connectivity?
The Coalition Government has taken positive steps in the 2018-19 Budget in committing funds to improve some of the road corridors and rail networks to/from the port. However much more needs to be done across the country if the freight network is to be managed for the demands of a growing population.
Ad-hoc election promises by political parties is not the solution.
The development of a bipartisan National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy is a key step in the right direction. A policy document that is agreed to by port parties, articulates the freight issues facing Australia and prioritises high-level objectives and solutions should form the basis for future government funding. Australia is lacking this key piece of the domestic freight framework to provide business, the community and government policy-makers the confidence in planning for the future.
National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy is a document with extensive stakeholder input. Ports Australia calls on all parties to reach a bi-partisan agreement on strategy and for it to be within in the first 100 days of the incoming Government.