Smart Transport Solutions

BAG believes that investment in road transport should not be made in isolation. Rather, investment in transport should be based on a needs approach, and should only be made after consideration of all transport modes. It is essential to choose the transport mode which delivers the best performance in terms of economic, environmental and social outcomes.


Freight and Passenger Rail

The federal government has supported a report that encourages the prioritisation of freight by rail and faster rail connections within and between cities and regions. The Building Up & Moving Out report (House of Representatives Standing Committee on Infrastructure, Transport and Cities, 2018) makes a number of recommendations relating to rail transport including:

  • "the development of a national freight network, creating a strong system of multimodal integration based on dedicated freight nodes, prioritising the movement of freight by rail, separating freight and passenger movements where possible, and developing dedicated fast-rail and high-speed-rail passenger rail lines to relive the congestion of existing networks" 

In the US 40% of intercity freight is moved by rail, compared to 3-5 % on the eastern seaboard of Australia (down from 30% in the 1970s). Yet in real terms "rail is half the cost per tonne / km and a third of the greenhouse gas emissions compared to road" - Professor Peter Newman, Distinguished Professor of Sustainability and Director of the Curtin University Sustainability Policy (CUSP) Institute on ABC Radio National.

Rail Freight Solutions for Central West and Blue Mountains

BAG has produced  a paper outlining opportunities for improving freight on rail and transport options with reference to numerous government reports and studies - the report can be downloaded below.

Key Points:

  •  The RDA Central West Freight Study of 2014 predicts peak freight flow through the Great Western Highway to increase from 6.4 million tonnes pa in 2014 to 11.6 million tonnes pa in 2034, an increase of 81%. Rail freight at Lithgow through the main Western Line is predicted to increase by 79% during the same period.

  • The Inland Freight Rail route between Melbourne and Brisbane, due for completion in 2025, will support the efficient movement of freight by rail, providing better connectivity for agricultural produce to ports and reducing the movement of freight by road. This major infrastructure  project incorporates a number of intermodal terminals including the Parkes National Logistics Hub. In addition to offering direct rail and road links to Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney and the key ports of Newcastle and Port Kembla, Parkes also sits on the transcontinental railway line, allowing double-stack container access to Adelaide, Perth and Darwin.

  • In July 2020 the NSW government announced $185 million for construction of rail-associated infrastructure delivery in Parkes. This will enable the Parkes Special Activation Precinct, to develop a logistics and intermodal hub. The precinct stretches over 4,800 hectares of land, and can be used for purposes such as freight and logistics, food processing, warehousing, plastic and e-waste recycling, and cold chain storage. The precinct will also focus on sustainability, as it will be Australia’s first UNIDO Eco Industrial zone. The initiative of the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation seeks to enhance the environmental, economic and social performance of industrial businesses through collaboration.

  • The Evans & Peck Independent Review of Great Western Highway Upgrades West of Katoomba report noted the need for further investigation of rail as an alternative for the movement of freight between the Central West and Sydney. The report recommended that a further study be done. The NSW Government is yet to act on this recommendation.

  • The RDA Central West Freight Study of 2014 notes that: 

    • "The movement of low volume general freight by rail is found to be generally uncompetitive in the Central West compared to road freight for short haul into the Greater Sydney region and NSW ports. This is due primarily to the extent to which costs are recovered through user pay arrangements. Above and below rail costs are generally recovered through the cost of freight whereas road freight costs are not recovered to the same extent. Rail is however, the most efficient method of transporting bulk goods at high volumes." and

    • "The Study Team believe that some commodities traditionally hauled by rail are at threat of being lost to road freight, as road freight rates reduce through competition and road vehicles become more efficient. Existing rail users have also expressed the need for greater capacity through the Central West for rail to remain competitive. A loss of bulk rail freight services in rural towns would result in a significant additional burden on local roads, a number of which are not suited to heavy vehicle transport due to pavement width and safety issues."


BAG calls on the Government to follow the recommendations of the Henry Tax Review to establish a more level playing field between road and rail freight, as well as standardising and simplifying the compliance costs for rail across Australia (as has been done for road freight but not rail).

  • The Central West Transport Needs Study (2008) calls for a review of rail in the Central West, and improving rail junctions and refuges to accommodate longer trains through the Dubbo to Newcastle rail corridor. This would benefit the Central West by releasing train paths over the Blue Mountains (2009 cost estimate $27 million) - for example coal trains destined for the port of Newcastle currently travel through the Blue Mountains.

  • Increasing the capacity of the Western Line (Blue Mountains Line) could be greatly improved by rolling out bi-directional signalling across the entire Blue Mountain line between Penrith and Lithgow (currently only some sections have bi-directional signalling). This would provide significantly more train paths and offer greater flexibility for passenger and freight train movements across the Blue Mountains. The estimated cost to achieve bidirectional signalling across the entire Blue Mountains line is between $50 and $75 million.

  • Further increase in the capacity of the Western Line could be achieved by extending the existing passing loops at Lawson and Katoomba to meet ARTC standards (allowing for longer freight trains across the Blue Mountains).

  • Western Sydney Freight Line is planned to provide a dedicated freight rail link from Western Sydney to Port Botany for import and export opportunities as well as freeing up the T1 Western Line for more passenger services.

  • BAG is calling on the NSW Government to make quadrupling of the western rail line from St Mary's to Penrith a key infrastructure project, as well as a dedicated rail freight line between St Mary's and Moorebank via the second airport. These would provide greater options for freight on rail as well as easing current congestion on the Sydney metropolitan rail network and roads.

The full report can be downloaded here:

Further Inspiration and References