Pacific National calls for action to bolster rail link and freight infrastructure

Published: Monday, February 14, 2022

With the nation’s major east-west rail link cut and freight runs curtailed, Pacific National is calling for action to bolster the infrastructure.

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) is assessing the damage and is yet to nominate a date for the resumption of services after floods damaged sections of track between Adelaide and Tarcoola, thereby halting services to Perth.

Services to the Northern Territory are also affected, though repairs are underway.

Roads in norther South Australia and southern Northern Territory are also out of action, with freight trucks stranded.

“The Omicron outbreak has yet again highlighted the unique benefits of hauling large volumes of goods and commodities safely over large distances by rail,” Pacific National chief operating officer Pat O’Donnell said in a statement.

“The outbreak has also shone a spotlight on the finely tuned nature of Australia’s national supply chain.

“A typical 1,800-metre-long double-stacked interstate freight train travelling between Adelaide and Perth (~2,700km journey which takes between 42 to 46 hours) can haul up to 330 containers. Such a service is equivalent to 140 interstate B-double truck trips (or 280 return trucks trips).

“For added context, a single container can hold up to 50,000 cans of food, 25,000 rolls of toilet paper, 1,500 cases of beer, 900 boxes of bananas, or 100 fridges.

“The Trans-Australian Railway is the umbilical cord connecting our continent’s eastern and western seaboards – it’s a vital link in Australia’s supply chain. Road and sea freight alone can’t provide all the volumes of goods needed in Western Australia.

“As the country’s largest private rail freight company, Pacific National alone undertakes approximately 50 return services each week between Adelaide and Perth.

“That’s equivalent to 90km of freight train length each week. Currently, these critical rail freight services are suspended due to the track closure.

“It’s now time for the Australian government to commit funds to upgrade this vital piece of national infrastructure.

“More resilience needs to be built into the existing rail line. I can’t imagine commuters or truckies accepting major regional highways being closed for up to or over a week.”