Freight rail plan stalled – Newcastle Herald

By IAN KIRKWOOD

Dec. 8, 2013, 10 p.m.

Aiming to guide the movement of freight across the state for the coming 20 years, the strategy is based on a belief  freight volumes will double by 2031.

‘‘The NSW community expects that any government involvement in the transport network is transparent, represents value for money and avoids unintended commercial consequences and social impacts, such as congestion and noise,’’ the strategy says.

But critics said that both  would  remain major problems and  that the government was not doing enough to move containers off roads on to trains and to build dedicated freight rail routes to benefit passenger rail.

The report shows Port Botany container volumes have more than doubled since 1999 but the percentage moved on rail has fallen from 22per cent to 14per cent.

The report highlights Newcastle’s position as the world’s biggest coal port and predicts  the amount of coal on Hunter rail lines will increase substantially to 262million tonnes a year by 2031.

It also reinforces long-term plans to build the state’s next big container terminal at Port Kembla, once Port Botany is full.

The report says a Lower Hunter freight rail bypass would ‘‘divert freight services from sensitive suburban areas where several level crossings operate and deliver major time savings and reliability improvements for interstate rail freight’’.

But the concept rates only a single mention in the 240-page report.

‘‘Funding sources’’ to buy the land for a rail track corridor are yet ‘‘to be determined’’.

Transport expert Greg Cameron, who has spent years promoting a Newcastle container terminal, said the strategy doomed Sydney to even more truck congestion.

‘‘This policy will generate 2.6million container truck movements between Port Botany and western Sydney by 2030, more than three times the 850,000 recorded last year,’’ Mr Cameron said.