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Rail's market share of freight containers into the Port of Melbourne has plummeted to a new low of just over six per cent, according to the latest figures from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
It's now dropped from nearly 14 per cent in 2013-14 to 6.1pc last financial year, down from 7.5pc the previous financial year.
The ACCC's annual Container Stevedoring Monitoring Report 2020-21 shows throughput at Australian ports has grown at an average rate of over five per cent a year in the past 20 years.
"If throughput continues to rise at such rate, then by 2030-31, it will grow to around 13 million TEU," the report found.
But it said most freight was being carried by trucks.
"Over the past decade, on average, only around 10pc to 12pc of the containers entering or leaving the Australian container ports were transported by rail.
"If the split between market share of rail and trucks continues into 2030, this may double the number of trucks required.
"This could lead to more congestion on metropolitan roads."
The ACCC found there was potential to better integrate rail into the supply chain, to increase its market share to a more sustainable mode split.
"Increases in rail capacity would particularly benefit farmers and other regional exporters who currently rely more on rail," it said.
Rail had gained material market share in Adelaide, but not much elsewhere.
In contrast, over the same period, the use of rail in Melbourne had decreased.
This drop coincided with the entry of VICT at Webb Dock in Melbourne, which currently does not have direct rail access.
The lack of direct on-dock rail access at the port increased the cost of using rail and can limit the use of rail for containerised products to, and from, the port.
At the Port of Melbourne, the West Swanson Rail Terminal is currently the only on-dock rail terminal at the Port to move containers.
All other terminals use trucks to move containers to, and from, the two Swanson Dock container terminals.
"This transfer via road between the rail terminal near the Port and the stevedoring terminal can cost up to $100 for each container," the ACCC found.
Road impactIt comes as a time when farmers say regional roads in north-west Victoria will be smashed by thousands of additional truck movements this harvest while the Murray Basin Rail Project is still stalled, according to opposition agriculture spokesman Peter Walsh.
He said as Victorian farmers looked ahead to a bumper grain harvest that's predicted to top seven million tonnes, it's been revealed the botched Basin Rail upgrades will limit capacity to just two and a half million tonnes.
"Shoddy workmanship, poor contract management and the use of poor-quality materials in the years since the government was elected have left this once-in-a-generation Project at a standstill," Mr Walsh said.
"The Victorian Farmers Federation is rightly concerned a second year of extra truck movements will do damage to the road surface that will put regional road users at risk - damage that could have been avoided.
"The government's made a mess of the Basin Rail, with estimates predicting it'll cost more than double the original cost to fix the mistakes.
"Every year the government delays fixing the problems is another year farmers will lose productivity and profitability and another year of damage to crumbling regional roads."
VFF Grains Group President Ashley Fraser says the unnecessary extra truck movements on "wavy, potholed ... crumbling" rural roads will cause "safety issues".
In September, the Victorian Auditor-General's Office (VAGO) found the Murray Basin Rail Project was currently $367.9 million over budget and five years overdue.
"The commonwealth government has put up more than $200 million in extra funds to fix Labor's mess, with just $5 million needed from the Victorian government to get planning underway for future stages," Mr Walsh said.
"But Ms Allan has abandoned primary producers by pig-headedly refusing to come to the table.
"All the while, her government pours billions into cost blowouts on poorly-managed projects in Melbourne."
Ports Minister Melissa Horne said the government was working to move more freight onto rail and support the PoM to remain the nation's busiest port.
"Projects like the Murray Basin Rail Project, Port Rail Shuttle Network and Mode Shift Incentive Scheme are increasing freight capacity and giving farmers and exporters more options to get their goods where they need to go," Ms Horne said.
"We have also invested funding into Victoria's regional rail freight network to deliver critical upgrades and support the ongoing shift from road to rail, as well as approving Port of Melbourne Operations to deliver the Port Rail Transformation Project and working alongside the Commonwealth to deliver terminals in Melbourne's north and west."
This article first appeared on www.northqueenslandregister.com.au
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