ARTC pushed as ideal choice for national rail body

Leading engineering firm takes aim rail's cross-border inconsistencies and its "polluting and heavily subsidised road competitors"

August 21, 2009

A leading electrical engineering firm has called for a national rail authority and increased investment in the sector to help it compete with its "heavily subsidised road competitors".

O’Donnell Griffin Rail Engineering Director Francis Dwornik wants the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) given the power to oversee widespread reforms recommended in a study released this month by the National Transport Commission (NTC).

Responding to the NTC’s Freight Rail Productivity Review, Dwornik has criticised a recommendation to include Infrastructure Australia in negotiations with state and federal governments on how to improve rail’s productivity.

He says a national regulator is essential in ensuring the success of uniform reforms proposed by the NTC such as regulations, rail subsidies and infrastructure investment.

"Without a single authority charged with the reforms by all states and territories we will continue to drown in inefficient practices and continue to lose ground to rail’s polluting and heavily subsidised road competitors," Dwornik says.

Citing the seven different state and territory rail regulators and bans on freight trains during peak passenger hours, Dwornik says current processes are sapping rail’s productivity and drowning operators in red tape.

"Unless a radical long-term vision is employed to address the rail freight network, there will be a need to simply push more trucks onto the road network," Dwornik says.

As well as calling for the ARTC to oversee national rail policies, Dwornik says upgrades to rail links between Melbourne and Adelaide and the creation of a link from Brisbane to the Adelaide-Darwin line are essential.

Dwornik also wants an inland rail between Melbourne and Brisbane with a major interchange at Parkes, as well as continued improvements to the line between Melbourne and Sydney.

"Without these additional lines the rail freight industry will not be competing in its most productive sectors and will lose ground," he says.

Bemoaning a lack of investment in rail, Dwornik says decision makers must look at duplicating routes so rail freight has a dedicated line.

"At the moment, freight trains can only operate outside six hours of designated peak passenger hours in and out of Sydney, so as not to disrupt passenger network operations. This is unacceptable," he says.

He has also proposed the unprofitable Adelaide to Darwin line focus on rail tonnage and access to ports to make the route more lucrative.

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