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September 22, 2014 – 1:47AM
Congested: As the volume of goods and traffic flowing through Port Botany expands, roads are becoming increasingly crowded. Photo: John Veage
The NSW government is failing in its aim of moving an increasing proportion of freight throughout Sydney on rail, leading to more heavy trucks on the road.
The development, which Roads and Freight Minister Duncan Gay concedes is a “slight embarrassment”, comes amid rapid growth in the volume of goods and commodities being moved through Sydney’s container port at Botany.
The state Coalition government wants to lift the share of containers moved through the port from 14 per cent to 28 per cent by the start of the next decade. This is a downgrade from the former government’s target of 40 per cent, which it never got close to meeting.
But over the life of the O’Farrell and Baird governments, the rail share of containers has remained stuck at about 14 per cent. Official figures for the 2013-14 financial year have not yet been released, but NSW Ports, the new private operator of the port, told Fairfax Media about the same volume of rail freight occurred last year as the year before.
This means the share of rail freight moving through the port has probably slipped to about 13 per cent, given the 4 per cent increase in the overall volume of container trade.
Asked about the failure to lift the share at budget estimates about the failure to lift the share, Mr Gay said: “We believe we will do it, but we are a long way off at the moment.”
Mr Gay attributed the failure to move a larger share of goods by rail to improvements in truck access to the port, which started under a program set up by former ports minister Joe Tripodi.
“It is success in one area that has stopped progress in another,” Mr Gay said, adding that the truck improvements were one of the few occasions he could refer to Mr Tripodi without using his name as a slur.
The executive general manager of NSW Ports for planning and infrastructure at NSW Ports, Marika Calfas, also attributed the lack of growth in rail freight to relatively weak rural exports, construction work at the port, to the lack of terminals to transport containers by rail, and to a lack of regulation.
An intermodal terminal at Enfield, previously due to start in 2012, will become operational later this year. There are also plans for the construction of at least one terminal at Moorebank, though that remains some years away.
“We need the facilities out there to increase capacity,” Ms Calfas said. “We need to be able to take the boxes somewhere.”
The WestConnex motorway is also being presented as a solution to congestion around the port.
Ms Calfas said NSW Ports supported the project, but needed more detail on how it would help trucks get from Foreshore Drive near the port to Sydney’s motorways.
“At the moment it is probably fair to say we really don’t have sufficient detail to understand how the proposal as planned delivers the improvement or delivers the efficient truck access from Port Botany connecting us to the M4 and the M5,” she said.
“We are talking to WestConnex, we are talking to other parties as well, but our primary objective in the interests of the port is to ensure efficient access to [those] M4 and M5 corridors.”
A spokesman for Transport for NSW said the state was setting up a cargo movement co-ordination centre to improve the performance of the road and rail network, while a program to improve the efficiency of rail freight at the port had also commenced.
Last year about 2.2 million containers moved through the port.