Truck lobby backs resumption of rail services

Peak road freight body the Tasmanian Transport Association welcomes TasRail’s proposed resumption of services to Bell Bay

By Rob McKay | July 20, 2010

Peak road freight body the Tasmanian Transport Association has welcomed TasRail’s proposed resumption of services to Bell Bay.

The state-owned rail operating company says containers will again ride the rails to Tasport’s preferred container export port from September.

TTA Executive Director Robin Phillips says the organisation believes road and rail could work hand-in-hand in the state.

"We think it is a good opportunity for the industry," Phillips says.

"We have a strong belief that if you take away any part of infrastructure, it tends not to be a good thing for the future."

The decision to discontinue rail services to Bell Bay earlier this year had been based on a combination of declining demand and a shortage of rail resources at that time, TasRail says.

"However, over recent months, TasRail has been speaking with potential customers about recommencing services, and our staff have been working to repair and upgrade previously obsolete assets, and recruiting additional staff to operate the trains," it adds.

"The new services to Bell Bay will reduce a significant number of road truck movements, and as a consequence will reduce greenhouse emissions associated with those road movements.

"More importantly however, it will reconnect a vital link in Tasmania’s transport network."

Kraft Foods also welcomed the news, which came six months after its global parent took over confectioner Cadbury, a significant exporter from the state.

"It supports the infrastructure base we need to maintain a globally competitive operation," Australia/New Zealand President Rebecca Dee-Bradbury says.

Infrastructure Minister Lara Giddings hails the move as offering local businesses a competitive freight transport alternative.

The move will be a boost for state-owned ports corporation Tasports, which had put much store on Bell Bay as the major container export port until Toll and Australian National Line put the skids under that strategy last August, forming Toll ANL Bass Strait Shipping and using Devonport instead.

Giddings says the Government will offer an extension of the current north-west road maintenance contract to Stornoway Maintenance for a further two years from next July.

The current annual budget for routine road maintenance is about $20 million.

Much of that may have to go on the surface of the main north-south road freight arterial, the Midland Highway, which Phillips describes as being in "the worst standard in 40 years".

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