Councils call for a Victorian minister for freight

Date: 03.04.2018

Fractured government structure said to disadvantage rail cargo

Councils call for a Victorian minister for freight

RFV wants a proper strategy for rail freight, especially of containers

The Victorian government should create a freight and logistics minister position to oversee rail cargo development, a local council grouping urges. Rail Freight Victoria (RFV), an alliance of 22 councils, has made the call in its Policy Statement 2018, pointing out that governance and control is so splintered it needs its own government section and minister. It notes the 2016 report by former deputy prime minister and rail expert Tim Fisher backed the idea.

“There is currently no Minister with sole responsibility for rail freight in Victoria,” the document states. “This is currently shared between the Ministers for Public Transport and Minister for Roads and Road Safety and Minister for Ports. “In addition, there are currently five government agencies involved in managing the network, Department of Treasury and Finance (DTF), Department of Economic Development Jobs Transport and Resources (DEDJTR), VicTrack, VLine, and Public Transport Victoria (PTV).

“There are also four separate access providers: VicTrack, V/Line, Metro Trains, and the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC). “There is no unified management or regional representation in relation to marketing rail freight. “A key recommendation of the Fischer Report was the establishment of a Rail Freight Facilitation Unit.

“The Rail Freight Alliance has, for many years, endorsed and supported this recommendation.” The grouping seeks the creation of a rail freight authority with responsibility to provide strategic advice and support to a dedicated minister for freight and logistics. The authority, to be called Rail Freight Victoria, would have an independent board, regional representation and the capacity to promote rail freight services to customers.

It would be located within the transport portfolio, as an independent statutory authority reporting directly to a dedicated minister. The policy statement also makes a claim, disputed by the road freight industry, that road-freight operators do not pay the full cost of their infrastructure. With that in mind, it argues rail access charges, which RFA supports, should be waived on lines that are not in a suitable condition for normal freight operations.

It also asserts that “subsidies and infrastructure provision afforded to road freight operators” means the £20 million four-year Mode Shift Incentive Scheme (MSIS), though inadequate, should be extended to 2022-23 at the current rate, particularly for containers. On planning, the RFA points out that the Transport Integration Act 2010 mandates the Victorian government to have a transport plan, currently no plan has been endorsed by the state government. Such a plan should be completed, with a ‘freight and ports strategy’ setting rail freight targets and timelines for:

  • grain
  • containers to and from the Port of Melbourne
  • intrastate and Interstate intermodal traffic
  • mineral sands.

The full statement can be found here[1].

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