Wednesday 18th Jul, 2018

Vic Opposition commits to Webb Dock rail link study

Photo: Patrick
Photo: Patrick

Victoria’s Liberal Nationals Opposition has promised to “revitalise” rail freight in the state and shift more trucks off roads, with commitments including funding to explore options for a rail link options between Webb Dock and the existing freight rail network.

$1.5 million will go towards the feasibility study if the Liberal Nationals are elected to government in November, shadow ports and freight minister David Hodgett said.

“Webb Dock is best placed to service the next generation of large container vessels calling into Melbourne, but it won’t fulfil its potential unless it has a rail link,” Hodgett said.

“An elected Liberal Nationals government will look at ways to link Webb Dock to the rail network to improve efficiency and get trucks off local roads.”

A rail link to the Webb Dock Melbourne port facility, which is currently fully reliant on truck freight, has long been mooted by industry groups and the state opposition. The Andrews government has also in the past spoken of exploring options for the link, but as yet no progress has been made.

Shadow public transport minister David Davis said that his party would be ready to “immediately” kickstart the long-delayed Port Rail Shuttle project, and attacked the government for negligence.

“Only Daniel Andrews could derail a fully-funded project,” he said.

“The Andrews Labor government has left the Port Rail Shuttle in disarray. The Liberal Nationals will immediately begin work to fix Daniel Andrews’ mess and deliver more efficient access to the Port of Melbourne.”

In August 2017 the government put out expressions of interest for the project, while shortlisted respondents were invited to submit firm proposals in March this year. Determinations on the shortlist will be made in late 2018, the government has said.

Deputy opposition leader Peter Walsh said that, if elected, the Liberal Nationals would also put $20 million to extend the Mode Shift Incentive Scheme (MSIS) to shift more freight off trucks and on to rail.

“The Port of Melbourne is vitally important to the industries of Regional Victoria,” Walsh said.

“An elected Liberal Nationals Government will get trucks off our country roads and give the freight industry certainty by extending the successful Mode Shift Incentive Scheme.

“We must take action to improve freight movement across Victoria and make sure exporters in regional Victoria can get their product from farm to port quicker and more efficiently.”

The Australasian Rail Association (ARA) has extended its support for the opposition’s commitment to the extension of the MSIS and the Webb Dock study, with chairman Bob Herbert stating that getting more freight on rail was essential to reducing congestion on Victoria’s roads.

“Port of Melbourne is a central node in the Victorian Supply Chain, handling 2.5 million containers annually,” Herbert said.

“Efficient freight rail to the Port, including to Webb Dock, will help to reduce congestion, improve safety and urban amenity. Congestion is the dominant challenge in our cities and infrastructure networks, particularly Melbourne.

“The MSIS is an important initiative that helps to reduce truck numbers on Victoria’s country roads and highways.”