The New South Wales Auditor-General issued a performance report to the NSW Parliament on Rail freight and Greater Sydney this week, highlighting the importance of achieving the efficient movement of freight through the city.

The report rightly acknowledges the important contribution of the sector to the NSW economy and confirms the need for freight specific strategies to meet the state’s objective to increase its use of rail.

Two thirds of all freight in NSW moves through the metropolitan area. With the state’s freight task expected to grow significantly in the years ahead, and a growing urban population increasing demands on the road network, better connected intermodal supply chains that make greater use of rail will be critical to support Sydney’s sustainable development.

Transport for NSW’s Future Transport 2056 report confirms the state will struggle to meet increasing demand for freight movements unless rail plays a larger role in the movement of freight.

While the NSW Government has identified a target to increase the use of rail to 28 per cent by the end of this year, the Auditor-General’s report confirms this target will not be met.

The report found that, despite numerous strategies to achieve greater rail mode share, the implementation of these has been unsuccessful in achieving their strategic objectives.

Perhaps most concerning, the Auditor-General concluded that transport agencies do not have clear strategies or targets in place to improve the freight efficiency or capacity of the metropolitan shared rail network.

They also do not know how to make best use of the rail network to achieve the efficient use of its rail freight capacity.

A key part of this challenge is a lack of information to support the analysis and reporting required to drive more efficient outcomes.

This means rail networks shared by both passenger and freight rail cannot always be used in a way that maximises freight capacity, without compromising passenger rail services.

Transport for NSW is advancing four freight-specific strategies to address these issues, based on contemporary industry data. These strategies will be a crucial part of confirming the path forward for rail freight.

The ARA is committed to supporting solutions to help achieve the best possible outcomes for industry and the community. The report’s recommendations provide important insights to guide this process and support greater use of rail freight in the state in years to come.