Is Moorebank running off the rails?

Is Moorebank running off the rails?
Photo courtesy of Sydney Ports Corporation.

Photo courtesy of Sydney Ports Corporation.

Greg Cameron

After three and a half years of planning, the Australian Government is changing its Moorebank intermodal terminal project.

Competition over rail capacity is behind the change. Although line capacity between Port Botany and Moorebank is 1.2 million TEU per year, there are two proposals, requiring 2.2 million TEU rail capacity in total.

There cannot be a 1.2 million TEU intermodal terminal operated by the Australian Government, alongside a 1 million TEU intermodal terminal operated by SIMTA – even if both proposals received planning approval.

Not only is rail capacity insufficient for current container demand, there is no rail capacity to meet future container demand.

In 2012, there were 0.85 million container truck movements between Port Botany and western Sydney, averaging 2 TEU per truck. The rail line between Port Botany and Moorebank has capacity to replace 0.6 million container truck movements. If an intermodal terminal is operating at Moorebank in 2020, there will be no change in the number of container truck movements between Port Botany and western Sydney.

Moorebank Intermodal Terminal Artist Impression 400

The number of container truck movements in 2030 will be 2.6 million. By 2040, container truck movements will exceed 5 million should Port Botany throughput reach 13 million TEU. At this rate, container trucks will require 50 per cent of the capacity of the M5 East westbound tunnel and 25 per cent of the capacity of the eastbound tunnel. Why build WestConnex?

Port Botany’s effectiveness is already impacted by inadequate road and rail infrastructure. For example, traffic volumes in both M5 East tunnels have exceeded capacity for some years. The NSW Government lifted the cap on Port Botany container terminal expansion to maximise the lease price. The cap was 3.2 million TEU. Container movements are expected to reach 7 million TEU by 2030.

It is impossible for an intermodal terminal at Moorebank to improve the effectiveness of Port Botany container terminal by reducing use of trucks.

The Australian Government’s other justification for an intermodal terminal at Moorebank is for handling interstate freight entering Sydney.

It will cost $4.4 billion to upgrade the ”Northern Sydney Freight Corridor (NSFC)”, between Strathfield and Newcastle, to maintain an interstate rail service to Moorebank.

The NSW Government is asking the Australian Government to pay for the upgrade.

Federal Treasurer, Joe Hockey is obliged to reveal if the Australian Government is considering allocating funds for the project. NSW Treasurer Mike Baird is obliged to advise why the proceeds of leasing the Port of Newcastle should not be applied to the NSFC upgrade.

The alternative is a privately-funded freight rail bypass of Sydney, between Newcastle and Glenfield, carrying containers between Newcastle and Eastern Creek.

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