Asciano proposes solutions for greener transport

Rail operator Asciano Group has called for the abolition of metropolitan rail curfews for freight goods and tax credits for freight forwarders that use low-emissions methods, along with the reassessment of land transport pricing.

The company outlined the recommendations in its submission to the National Transport Commission’s (NTC) discussion paper on freight transport in a carbon-constrained economy.

It argued where transport emissions were projected to comprise 66 per cent of national emissions by 2050 with freight demand rapidly rising, urgent policy and reform was needed for greater adoption of rail transport as a mode of choice.

“The tight competitive market with road, where government infrastructure investment historically has favoured road over rail, has weakened rail’s competitive position,” Asciano said. 

The company said rail was one of the most regulated industries in Australia, subject to seven rail safety regulators, six access regulators and 75 pieces of legislation with powers over environmental management.

“This over-regulation in rail is setting multiple standards for processes and infrastructure is inefficient, illogical and adds considerable cost for compliance to rail operators further reducing their competitiveness with road.”

To cut emissions, the company recommended measures such as removing metropolitan rail curfews for freight goods, increasing train size and length and tax credits from freight forwarders who use the best low-emissions mode for the task. 

In an attempt to increase rail’s share of the freight task, it also recommended the introduction of mass distance charging for road transport.

The government-owned Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC)’s submission was also in line with Asicano, arguing accelerated depreciation should become available for trains and rolling stock.

The trucking industry, however, argued the NTC’s move towards climate change policy was at odds with the Federal Government’s emissions trading scheme.

The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) said it had cautioned the NTC that it should not take on broader roles as it would duplicate the work of other agencies and jurisdictions.

“Given significant commitment of Australian Government resources to climate change policy and the robustness and comprehensiveness of the approach being applied, the ATA believes NTC resources could be better utilised to deliver productivity reforms, which will be critical to reducing the emissions intensity of freight transport,” the association said in its submission.

The ATA’s submission was endorsed by the National Association of Forest Industries and the Cement Industry Federation.

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