By GREG CAMERON
Jan. 16, 2014, 10:32 p.m.
THERE are eight reasons for a container terminal at Newcastle.
First, jobs would be created throughout northern NSW when regional firms have decent access to a container terminal for the first time ever. World trade is conducted using containers: no container terminal means no trade and no production for export. A Newcastle container terminal is commercially viable just by serving the northern NSW economy.
Second, the road and rail transport network serving Port Botany container terminal is inadequate. When container throughput reaches “natural capacity” of 13 million around 2040, a massive 11 million will be moved in container trucks and just two million by rail. Container trucks will require 50 per cent of the capacity of the M5 East westbound tunnel and 25 per cent of eastbound tunnel, which defeats the purpose of building WestConnex.
Third, railing containers between Newcastle and a single, major, intermodal terminal at Eastern Creek in western Sydney would pay for a freight rail bypass of Sydney – between Newcastle in the north to Glenfield in the south. A freight rail bypass is NSW government policy. Freight would be removed from the Newcastle rail line and this would enable a total re-design of public transport in Newcastle, using existing light rail corridors.
Fourth, freight would be removed from the Sydney rail network and the capacity used for passenger services. The economic savings are more than $1.6 billion a year, which alone justifies the bypass. The freight line between Epping and Strathfield would be used for the North-West passenger rail line and continue to White Bay using the vacant freight rail corridor.
Fifth, there would be no need to build stages 2 and 3 of the Northern Sydney Freight Corridor, a saving of $4.4 billion, in present value terms.
Sixth, Port Botany container terminal site can be re-developed for airport use. Modern aircraft need runways of at least 4000 metres. This can be achieved by extending the existing parallel runway and building a second cross runway. Environmental performance would improve and there would be substantially more passenger capacity.
Seventh, the freight rail line between Port Botany and Glenfield would be used to provide a passenger service for an airport at Badgerys Creek, should one be built.
The only reason for maintaining the freight rail line is to serve Port Botany, but its capacity is a meagre two million containers. There would be no intermodal terminal at Moorebank because the freight rail line to Port Botany would be used for a passenger service.
Eighth, industry would be encouraged to relocate to outer western Sydney from the inner west. There are 5500 hectares of land occupied by industry in inner western Sydney. Imaginative planning would see this land re-zoned for residential use while the firms would realise a handsome capital gain by moving to new premises on industrial land around Eastern Creek, reducing the cost of container transportation.
The current NSW government opposes a container terminal at Newcastle. It removed the cap on Port Botany container throughput in order to maximise the return from privatising the port. The cap existed because of inadequate transport infrastructure to move containers.
More than 85 per cent of containers arriving at Port Botany have a destination no further than 50 kilometres away, because there is no alternative. Just by serving the northern NSW economy, a container terminal at Newcastle would reduce container movements at Port Botany by about 25 per cent.
An intermodal terminal at Eastern Creek would attract industry to outer western Sydney to use available industrial land in a planned way. Transport costs would be reduced by warehousing containers at Eastern Creek and trucking only palletised goods.
A twenty-foot container weighs 2.5 tonnes and a forty-foot container four tonnes. By trucking the goods without the container, there is a 13 per cent load reduction.
At present, 25 per cent of all container movements are empty containers returned to Port Botany.
This cost would be saved when the containers are railed to Newcastle to be filled with goods for export.
Factories established closer to the intermodal terminal at Eastern Creek to form a planned transport/manufacturing industry cluster would further cut costs.
Greg Cameron is a public affairs analyst.