Port Rail Shuttle: the Continuing Case for Action!

The Habitat Trust has noted the recent decision of the State Government not to expedite implementation of a Rail Shuttle between the Swanson and Appleton Docks and Inland Ports. Further, it notes that such a system is not being actively supported. The scenario of up to eight years for creating some rail system for the Port of Melbourne is inadequate in its objectives and unacceptable in its time-frame.

Habitat holds the view that all this is counter-productive to advancement of the public good. It deplores the lack of action by State and Commonwealth Governments on a matter of strategic significance. The community should, and no doubt will, hold responsible for serious dereliction of their duty of care all those at State and Commonwealth Government level who have advocated, or acquiesced in, the enactment of these decisions.

Despite this situation the Habitat Trust remains committed to advancing the public good. It will therefore continue its advocacy for implementation, and indeed development and extension, of a rail-based Primary Freight system linking the docks of the Port of Melbourne directly to Inland Ports.

In support of this approach the Habitat Trust identifies the following challenges and opportunities:

  • A Docks to Inland Ports Rail Shuttle offers the opportunity for significant improvements in Border Security through a large increase in the rate of surveillance of containers for illicit goods (drugs, armaments, threats to Australia’s biosecurity, dangerous and non-compliant products, customs, etc.)
  • The overall capacity and efficiency of the Port of Melbourne is delimited by the efficiency of the landside access system serving Melbourne, its four-state hinterland and its strategic role as a node in the National Inland Rail system.
  • There is the specific opportunity over one year to eighteen months to remove some of the heaviest Primary Freight into and out of the Port of Melbourne from the road system of Greater Melbourne.
  • The social, environmental and economic degradation resulting from the present Primary Freight system into and out of the Port of Melbourne constitute a massive, though readily removable, imposition especially, but not exclusively, on the residents and all those who operate in and through the Western Suburbs of Melbourne.
  • The funding necessary to implement a Port Rail Shuttle has already been provided by the Commonwealth and within successive State Budgets.
  • Suggestions that the West Gate Distributor and the Western Distributor projects will resolve this situation are ill-founded; they deny the reality.

Allan Rodger

Chairman, The Habitat Melbourne Trust, 11th March 2016

Habitat recognises Ross and Anna Mellor

On Friday February 5 the Habitat Board made a presentation to Ross and Anna in recognition of their many years of service to the Trust, with Ross having been the principal organiser from the start, with Anna managing the office and  handling most of the paperwork.  Ross and Anna retired from their formal roles in late 2015 but remain actively connected to Habitat and have been appointed as patrons to the trust alongside Sir Ninian  Stephen.  The image shows Habitat Chairman Professor Allan Rodger presenting a Georg Jensen vase to Ross and Anna as a small symbol of their dedication to sustainable good design and major strategic issues over many decades.

2016-02-05 11.15.18

Habitat’s letter to the Prime Minister and the response

Habitat recently wrote to the Prime Minister urging Federal Government to progress the Freight on Rail proposals for the Port of Melbourne with the Victorian State Government. The Port Shuttle project would take many big trucks off the road system improving both safety and the environment; with funds already allocated from the Federal Government it seems very strange that the Victorian State Government has not yet acted on it, seemingly focussed on the sale of the ports.  And yet if the Port of Melbourne is forced to rely on road transport for its primary links to inland ports, it is likely to lose out badly to the fast developing rail supported Ports of Sydney and Brisbane.  You can read Habitat’s letter to the the Prime Minister, the response, and a follow up letter to the Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development in the attached files.Habitat Letter to PM, response, and follow up to Minister Truss

Letter to the Premier 24th August 2015

Habitat has recently written to the Premier of Victoria urging the Victorian Government to facilitate the implementation  of the SALTA/AUSTRAK proposal to move containers on existing rail lines between the Port of Melbourne and inland ports.  Habitat has also provided an independent evaluation comparing this option with current plans to invest  billions on road infrastructure.  You can download this evaluation as attached to the letter to the Premier.  See below.  Our conclusion is that getting a significant proportion of primary freight on to rail will take many trucks off our roads, and delay the need for expensive road investments.

Habitat has previously developed a proposal for a smart, stand-alone Primary Freight system connecting the docks to Inland Ports. Recognising that the development and implementation of such a system would inevitably take ten years or more the Trust turned its attention to identifying what might serve in the short and medium term. As a result it recommends that the system being advanced by Salta and Austrak would serve this purpose well, and importantly, keep Melbourne’s Ports competitive with Sydney’s. We conclude that “there is an incontrovertible case for the Victorian Government to act now to authorise, and facilitate the relevant implementation processes for, the Salta/Austrak proposal so as to have it operating before the end of 2016.”

A copy of the letter and the comparison document can be read below.

Premier Habitat 24-08-15

Letter to the Premier 25th June 2015

The proposal by Salta Properties and Austrak to connect the docks alongside Footscray Road to three inland ports using the existing rail network fits well with the previous proposal of the Habitat Trust of 8th January.  It provides a valuable short to medium term solution.  By removing port to dock traffic from the road system it would have beneficial congestion, health and environmental effects across the whole road system but particularly in the Western Suburbs while imposing no additional cost to the Commonwealth or State budgets.

The letter can be read below.

Premier 25 June 2015