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Victoria has made clear its aims to position itself as Australia’s freight and logistics capital, releasing a multi-billion dollar framework strategy for the state.
Published earlier this month, The Freight State highlighted how the state government intends to generate between $19 billion and $23 billion each year, while creating thousands of jobs.
Premier Denis Napthine joined ports minister David Hodgett and minister for public transport and roads Terry Mulder to unveil the plan in Melbourne.
Dr Napthine said growth in Victoria’s freight industry is vital for the state’s economy, which could spell good news for regional railway engineering projects.
“The coalition government understands that having access to an efficient freight network is absolutely vital for businesses and jobs that rely on exporting and importing their products,” he stated.
“This is why the coalition government is committed to major infrastructure projects that will improve Victoria’s freight network for decades to come: the East West Link, $1.6 billion expansion of the Port of Melbourne and the development of the Port of Hastings.”
According to the premier, the state’s ports are already top performers on the national stage.
The Port of Melbourne is the largest container and general cargo port in the country, while the ports of Geelong and Portland delivered record trade statistics during 2011-12.
Dr Napthine said the government is also committed to completing the Melbourne Metro Rail Tunnel, a project that will free up freight capacity in the state’s eastern region.
The benefits of boosting the freight and logistics sector could have a profound impact on the economy.
Mr Hodgett said the industry already accounts for 15 per cent of Victoria’s wealth, and the new plan will outline development for the next 27 years.
“Container trade is expected to quadruple by 2050, and through decisive action now, the Port of Melbourne expansion and Port of Hastings development will deliver the infrastructure and space needed to accommodate our growing export businesses,” he explained.
The ports minister said it makes sense to develop a port that supports Melbourne’s south-eastern suburbs, as they are among the most rapidly growing areas in Australia.
The government has worked closely with industry stakeholders to develop a holistic plan that ensures long-term sustainable growth.
Mr Mulder was keen to highlight how new freight links will help to decentralise heavy freight activity away from the CBD to the surrounding areas of Melbourne.
This will also free up land for redevelopment in the inner-city, he added.
The Australasian Railway Association (ARA) welcomed The Freight State report, claiming it provided a useful framework under which the rail industry can plan growth.
ARA chief executive Bryan Nye said Australia’s freight task is set to double over the next 20 years and Victoria is bound to play a huge part in this area of economic expansion.
“With Victoria being home to Australia’s largest container port as well as making up almost a third of all food and fibre exports in the country, appropriately planning for freight is a crucial task for the state government.”
He also highlighted the importance of progression of investigations into a South Eastern Rail Link, which would offer a rail corridor to the Port of Hastings.
“This project will lift capacity for both freight and passenger rail, and the rail industry is certainly keen to see this project, and the Melbourne Metro rail tunnel that it is dependent on, get underway.”
The ARA also praised “encouraging” plans for a proposed new rail link between Mildura and Broken Hill, which would fill in a missing link for the East-West corridor.