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Transport & Logistics

Rail at a ‘crossroads’ says Don Telford

10 Nov 2008, by Informa Insights

DON TELFORD, Chairman of Australasian Railway Association & CEO of Asciano

Australasian Railway Association Chairman Don Telford says rail is at a crossroads and needs funding after years of neglect to realise its full potential as a safe, clean and labour-efficient mode of transport.

While he doesn’t think the economic slowdown will impact much on rail, he laments hindrances to technological development and the lack of a national plan.

Mr Telford, who is also Chief Operating Officer of Asciano with responsibility for Pacific National, Australia’s largest privately owned freight rail operator, is a key speaker at the AusRAIL 2008 conference and exhibition in Melbourne on 1-2 December.

He says in an that among the three rail components, bulk, intermodal and passenger, bulk (comprising mainly iron ore and coal) is still unable to satisfy export needs.

“With intermodal, there may be some slowdown, but I doubt it will be very much because most of the shipments are made from eastern states to Western Australia.

“There will be some lag time with many of those projects that have already started – I see that growth will continue.

“With passenger – we always need transport to get people to and from work in the suburbs. I don’t think the industry is going to be much affected at all.”

He says that transport growth in Australia is 1.2 to 1.6 times GDP growth.

“Unless rail is upgraded Australia will continue to be reliant on road, and unfortunately roads are at capacity.

“The Building Australia Fund presents an excellent opportunity to rectify 50 years of under-investment in rail.” However he says the fund can’t do it alone and will need input from state governments, the Australian Rail Track Corporation, operators and property developers alike.

The NSW Government’s decision to defer passenger rail projects in Sydney is very unfortunate as the road network is at capacity and traffic congestion is affecting business productivity.

He says rail is three times more efficient than road and while the drop in oil prices takes away some competitive advantage, that is offset by other benefits.

“Rail is safer, cleaner and more labour-efficient. One train from Sydney to Melbourne replaces 70 B-doubles, saves 45,000 litres of fuel and 44 tonnes of carbon emissions.

“Rail is considerably cleaner than road. Fourteen per cent of CO2 emissions are produced by transport and it is getting worse.

“We must take action now if we are going to meet the targets the Federal Government has set. Rail must be included in any agreements going forward.

“The Green Paper on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) excluded road transport for 12 months. If that were to continue I don’t think we’d ever meet the targets set by the Government.”

He says the ARA will lobby to ensure rail is recognized and supported for its role as cleaner mode of transport.

From a technological perspective, rail is “coming from well behind”.

“We lack a national plan. Even the rail line that runs between Perth and Brisbane has four different owners that have four different ideas and unfortunately they can’t coordinate that plan.

“To introduce new technology which is certainly important with regard to signaling and making our trains more fuel efficient, we’re unable to do that because of this same breakup.

“I think it’s very unfortunate and very reminiscent of the different gauge problems that came from our forefathers.”

To arrange a media pass, request more information or arrange speaker interviews please contact: Nigel Dique
Informa-IIR 02 9080 4108; 0423 024 819;

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