Asciano managing director Mark Rowsthorn has called on the federal government to deliver certainty of tenure to stevedores and rail operators.
In a frank and open speech delivered at the Australian Logistics Council (ALC) Annual Forum in Canberra, Mr Rowsthorn has spared no arrows in allocating blame for the current, miserable state of transport infrastructure in Australia today.
"Stevedores require certainty in return for investing hundreds of millions of dollars in port infrastructure," he said. "Operating in a finite geographical area, stevedores must invest heavily to improve the velocity of containers."
Referring to the Port of Brisbane, the expansion of Port Botany and the Port of Melbourne developmnts, Mr Rowsthorn has poured scorn on government moves to introduce a third stevedore.
"A third stevedore will hinder investment," he said. "As stevedoring is such a capital intensive industry, we must have economies of scale for profitable operations."
Mr Rowsthorn said operators would be better off improving their productivity on the existing land, as even after the current expansion plans, container numbers will outgrow the area if productivity improvements, such as increased automation, more rail-mounted gantries, expanded rail sidings and inland container ports serviced by shuttle trains, are not implemented.
On the rail front, Mr Rowsthorn has described the current situation as a "basket case".
"We have to deal with seven (7) different rehulators," he said. "We have to negotiate six different access agreements for a train to run from Brisbane to Perth.
"Over 30% of our cost goes on track access. The ARTC’s pricing model is based on a capacity to pay, not on a reasonable economic contract."
He said the current situation does not give operators a certainty to invest, and called on the government to scrap access charges altogether.
"The ARTC’s $ 2.5 billion investment is a band-ai solution," Mr Rowsthorn said. "We have to think beyond today and build double tracks between the (eastern states) capitals, build the Melbourne – Brisbane line immediately, have less regulation, and introduce a high degree of dependability into the rail system.
"Railway is critical for our future," he added, noting that an investment of $ 25-30 billion would be required, and maintained into the future.
"We need a massive shift from road to rail, we need to completely rebuild the rail system," he said.