Background

The Rail Freight Alliance was formed as an advocacy body to represent Councils, farmers, suppliers, workers and regions affected by rail freight issues in Victoria and southern New South Wales.

With over a decade of issues experience and detailed knowledge of the rail freight industry, the Alliance continually advocates for the significant environmental, social and economic community benefits derived from having a sustainable and efficient rail freight network across Victoria, and rail freight links with other states.

The Alliance has long term objectives to ensure the continuation of rail freight services and safe standards of its lines. The 24 regional and rural councils, headed by Chairman Vernon Knight, meet regularly to voice opinions, create viable business strategies and lobby the importance of rail freight transport to rural and metropolitan areas, and also as the best option for the national economy.

Recent Movements

2008

Lobbying for rail freight funding has reached new heights in 2008 as the Alliance continues to request a commitment from the Government for upgrading infrastructure and continuing rail services.

Jan: KPMG to complete a study into Asciano’s non-performing assets to determine its future decision

Feb: Asciano announced withdrawal of grain rail business in NSW and Victoria
State Govt announce $20 million rail freight package to provide temporary rebate for container freight carried on rail services from Warrnambool, Horsham, Mildura and Shepparton.

GrainCorp voice disgust and call on federal government and Infrastructure Australia council to make a commitment to the standardisation of Australia’s rail gauge within the next 10 years.

Federal Nationals leader pounds PN’s decision to stop exporting grain to NSW.

Federal Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Tasmanian Local Government conducting public forums to discuss potential reforms to Tasmanian freight subsidy arrangements in Hobart, Launceston and Devonport.

March: Sunraysia operator Wakefields Ironhorse Intermodal Transport went into voluntary administration.

Councils in support of State Govt’s Rail Freight Review.

Asciano reviews the future of its services in Tasmania and Victoria.

Deal reached to ensure rail freight continues between Mildura and the Victorian ports.

Australian Road Train Association expresses concern.

Asciano stands to end Pacific National’s’s grain freight service in VIC.

Tasmania’s Brighton Transport Hub to be funded by State and supported by the Federal
Government to allow full use of Tasmania’s rail system.

Asciano considers selling or closing its Tasmanian services because they’re underperforming and unsustainable.

Victorian Shadow Minister for Infrastructure said it was vital the Labor Government pursued other operator options just in case Pacific National pulls out of State.

April: $43m funding from the Victorian State Govt to upgrade train lines. Includes $23.7m toward “gold lines” identified in Fischer Report: Korong Vale – Quambatookm, Korong Vale -Charlton, Murtoa – Warracknabeal, Shepparton – Tocumwal, Swan Hill – Piangil, Mildura – Yelta. Other $19m to be spent on maintenance.

No agreement yet to be reached with rail terminal operators.

Pacific National in discussions with Wimmera to extend its contract past April, however that outcome seemed unlikely at a Horsham meeting.

May: Greater Shepparton made submission to MAV seeking support Govt for rail freight issues August: Rail Freight 08: Community Summit “Shaping Victoria’s Future in Freight”.

2007

May: Transport infrastructure group, Asciano Ltd, created as a rail and port operator.

Victorian Govt announced to buy back the lease of the intrastate, non-urban rail network for $133.8m.

April: Victorian State Govt signed off on a deal to buy back the regional rail freight network from Pacific National at a cost of $135m.

ACCC approved Toll Group restructure.

June: Government commissioned a review of Victoria’s regional rail freight network State Govt $133.8 million buyback of the network from PN

July:Victorian Minister for Roads and Ports announced an $11.5 billion vision for Victoria’s road and rail infrastructure.

SA Govt announced Eyre Peninsula Rail Infrastructure Refurbishment Project comprising $15m AusLink contribution, $11 Genesee and Wyoming, the rail operator, $2m from State Govt and rest from a new grain levy.

Aug:Submissions welcomed for Rail Freight Network Review.

Nov:Rail Rescue Package, Tasmanian Govt secured $78m from the Federal Govt and $44m from the State Government to maintain Tasmania’s rail freight services.

Dec: Victorian Minister for Public Transport confirmed the Brumby Government’s commitment to delivering a sustainable rail freight network for Victoria.

Asciano announced it will divest or downsize its grain haulage business as the drought squeezes earning.

Asciano declared it would no longer shift the annual grain harvest from rural silos to the ports.

Rail Freight Review report ‘Switchpoint’ led by Tim Fischer released to public. The Fischer report recommended a prioritised upgrading the Vic Network. It estimated the total investment package would cost $140 million, plus an ongoing $25 Million for annual maintenance beyond 2011.

Rail Freight Review document ‘Switchpoint: The template for rail freight to revive and thrive!’ submitted to the Minister for Public Transport.
Pacific National announces 105 jobs to be made redundant .

2006

June: Federal and Tasmanian Governments announced joint $118m funding package to upgrade Tasmanian rail network subject to Pacific National agreeing to invest $28m in rolling stock upgrades ($78m from Fed’s and $40 from State over 10 years for track maintenance).

Dec: Toll Holdings proposed to restructure its business that involves the separation of its transport infrastructure assets from its network and supply chain business.

2005

June: Federal Govt under AusLink program announced $15m rehabilitation of Eyre Peninsula narrow gauge rail network in SA. Conditional on a matching contribution from state and local govt and industry.

Oct:Pacific National threatens to pull out of Tasmania.

Tasmanian Greens believe that the rail crisis must be tackled co-operatively between Pacific National and the state and federal governments.

2004

Sept: Pacific National bought out Freight Australia in 2004 – $285 million.

2003

Pacific National acquired Tasrail Services.

1999

Jan: Victorian Govt. sold intrastate Victoria rail freight business for $163m to Rail America, a North American company.