Infrastructure Australia released the 2021 Australian Infrastructure Plan today, which supports a single national vision to guide critical transport infrastructure over multiple generations. Here are our key takeaways for the rail freight sector.

  1. The Plan sets out a vision for future investment in infrastructure of national significance, including a major focus on transport infrastructure. The ARA welcomes this approach and supports a national focus in the rail freight sector.
  2. While the Plan does not focus heavily on rail freight infrastructure, it contains many relevant recommendations. This includes an emphasis on increased clarity and transparency in assessing priority infrastructure, and the need to develop a best-practice holistic approach to Australian infrastructure. It also acknowledges the value of upgrading and maintaining assets, not just new builds.
  3. The Plan recommends further investment priorities to improve intermodal access to new, reopened and established rail lines and enhance regional freight line integration in rural communities. The ARA agrees these moves are critical for the operation of available rail freight infrastructure as a truly national network. The Plan encourages prioritised investment in intermodals to allow transport modes to work together to enable seamless journeys for freight in urban settings.
  4. Rail freight sector participants will be glad to see the Plan considers transport pricing reform to ensure networks can move freight safely and more efficiently.
  5. The Plan calls out the need to retain flexibility and special access conditions developed for the COVID-19 response for rail freight permanently.
  6. The Plan acknowledges the need to strengthen freight connectivity for regional, rural and remote communities to develop social and economic benefits, advantages of rail freight that were evident as part of the ARA’s 2020 Value of Rail report.
  7. The Plan promotes the development of an affordable transition to net zero sustainable transportation. The ARA is encouraged by the recognition of the importance of collaboration to achieve better sustainability outcomes.
  8. The Plan identified a need for better freight data that is readily available for industry, local government and other stakeholders, in the same way work health and safety data is captured.
  9. It highlights the need for action plans for export precincts near big cities to relieve suburban friction and make it easier to access freight services to and from international gateways. The ARA welcomes the Plan’s acknowledgement that all new port proposals should designate land for freight and logistics operations.
  10. The Plan recommends a coordinated and cross-sectoral approach to land use, allowing passenger and rail freight to co-exist.
  11. It recognises a future need to identify and assess proposals to increase capacity and connectivity for Port Botany, the Port of Melbourne and the Port of Brisbane.
  12. The Plan notes that future government investment is essential in maintaining regional rail freight lines to withstand climatic extremes and emerging supply chain needs, to reduce road freight and urban bottlenecks around ports. The ARA recognises asset upgrades are just as critical as new builds, particularly in areas deemed suitable for faster rail infrastructure. We support financial measures that encourage the use of rail freight direct to ports.