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Future Freight Networks : Yearbook 2018
88 ALC FORUM 2018 Staying on track – how can rail share the growing freight task? Session chair Anthony Hatch, of ABH Consulting in the United States, commenced this first session of the Forum’s second day by outlining the ‘rail renaissance’ that is currently occurring in the United States’ freight network, driven in part by shortages of heavy vehicle drivers and increasing fuel costs. There has been a significant increase in capital expenditure on rail, and the returns on those investments are improving. As a result, the United States’ rail network and rolling stock are probably in the best condition they have ever been in, and a general public perception that moving freight via rail is more efficient and safer means that the prospects for continued investment in rail, and growth in demand for freight rail services, seem assured. Damien White, Chief Executive Officer, TasRail, said that this scenario should inspire policymakers in Australia, particularly given the need for freight to maintain its social licence. In particular, we should strive to deepen public awareness that increased use of rail means less road congestion for the general public. He also emphasised the benefits of short-haul rail around ports, noting that its increased use could advantage all modes of freight transport by helping to clear bottlenecks at ports. John Fullerton, Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC), noted that the ARTC was formed 20 years ago to make inter- capital markets more effective. ARTC has invested $6.5 billion in New South Wales since taking over the state’s rail operations in 2004. Over 12 years, it has replaced 60 per cent of rail and all sleepers. He also highlighted ARTC’s central role in the construction of Inland Rail, saying that there is no better time than the present to commence the project, now that the rest of the network has been upgraded. Inland Rail completes the picture of connecting Australia’s key ports and population centres with a world-class freight rail line. He noted that the project’s linkage to the existing east-west freight rail line is also enormously important. Dean Dalla Valle, Chief Executive Officer, Pacific National, also expressed optimism about the future of rail in Australia’s freight networks. In his view, rail is on the right side of all the main issues that feed into the debate: safety, environmental considerations, congestion, and infrastructure development. The sector, however, does suffer from a perception that it is ‘low tech’ in some respects, and this will pose a challenge in recruiting its future workforce. Inland Rail will be an important way to practically demonstrate some of the technological innovations that are changing the way rail operates. This will be important in overcoming some of the misplaced perceptions about the industry, and attracting the talented personnel that it will need in the decades to come. Damien White, John Fullerton, Dean Dalla Valle and the Hon John Anderson AO