NSW Farmers is calling for ongoing funding to support the Fixing Country Rail program, following the positive announcement this week of $137 million in funding to address 11 projects across the state.
With more than $1 billion requested in the first round of funding, NSW Farmers’ grains committee chair, Rebecca Reardon, says the government and opposition must commit to ongoing funding to ensure further improvements in the country regional network.
“The allocation of $137 million of the $400 million set aside for Fixing Country Rail is a great start. However more funding will be required to bring the entire network up to a baseline standard which will improve supply chain and freight efficiency across the state”, Mrs Reardon said.
“Over the past 18 months NSW Farmers has been working with above and below rail operators to better understand the role rail infrastructure can play in improving supply chain efficiencies, leading to improved farm gate prices and margin maximisation for farmers. Working with industry, we developed, for the first time, a whole-of-industry approach to support funding for these vital infrastructure upgrades.”
“NSW Farmers particularly welcomes funding announced to upgrade the Griffith to Junee line, to address the Mount Morgan pinch point near Port Kembla and upgrades to the Narromine to Ulan section of the network. These important upgrades will have flow on benefits across the rest of the network, ensuring better prices for growers and more efficient freight movements.”
NSW Farmers believes that further investigation into other projects which will reduce pinch points, lift payloads and remove inefficiency are essential to the future needs of agricultural freight.
“There are many other worthwhile applications which were not funded in this round – NSW Farmers would like to see these further considered by Government, particularly those projects which lift branch line capacity and improve network efficiency up-country.”
“If we are to successfully shift agricultural freight from road to rail we must make the system as efficient as it can be. This means we must resolve first and last mile issues as much as lifting capacity along the entire network”, Mrs Reardon said.
“We have to remember that the promised inter-connectivity between the inland rail and the country regional network isn’t just about having the rail lines connected to each other. It’s also ensuring the highest payload to ensure maximum efficiency of the rolling stock operating across the network. This means lifting more of the New South Wales network to at least 23 tonne total axel limit (TAL), and as high as 25t TAL where possible, to ensure maximum agricultural freight efficiency.”
“We also have to ensure branch line maintenance and upgrades are continued, so that we keep freight off road and on rail.”
Mrs Reardon said the NSW Farmers’ Association’s 2018-19 Budget submission called for ongoing funding for the Fixing Country Rail program.
“This investment of $137 million, out of the $400 million originally set aside, is a good start. We look forward to seeing further investments and, preferably, an ongoing commitment of funds to this important program in the years ahead”, Mrs Reardon said.