Train freight up, truck movements down after three months of rail subsidy

A push to reduce truck traffic around Fremantle Port has seen an increase in the monthly rail market share of 2.5 per cent. Picture: Jon Bassett.
A push to reduce truck traffic around Fremantle Port has seen an increase in the monthly rail market share of 2.5 per cent. Picture: Jon Bassett.

A PUSH to cut truck congestion has led to a 2.5 per cent increase in the amount of freight on rail, but the State opposition says it is too early to be labelling the initiative a success.

In December the State Government announced it would increase the container rail subsidy from $30 to $50 for each twenty-foot equivalent (TEU) unit in a bid to reduce truck traffic on roads around Fremantle Port.

Its aim is to get the monthly rail market share up to 20 per cent.

The subsidy, which kicked in on January 1, is paid for all loaded containers that move between the North Quay Rail Terminal, Forrestfield and Kwinana.

Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said the monthly rail market share had increased from 14.8 per cent in December to 17.3 per cent in March, with an extra 3900 TEUs on rail in the first quarter of 2018 compared to the same period 12 months earlier.

She said it meant the removal of 23,900 one-way truck movements on Perth roads, including 3700 from roads connecting to the port.

“This initiative was one of several alternatives to the flawed Perth Freight Link plan, which also include development of more intermodal terminals, planning for the Outer Harbour and upgrading High Street,” she said in a statement.

“We have been laying the foundations of our integrated plan for freight and trade in WA and are now starting to see the benefits.

“Rail is playing a significant role in achieving greater efficiency in Fremantle Port’s container supply chain, while reducing the impacts of truck traffic on the community.”

But opposition transport spokeswoman Liza Harvey said it was too early for a pat on the back just yet.

“The Government made a commitment to increase the rail subsidy and they are gloating, albeit after only a few months, of the policy having an impact,” she said.

“We will monitor freight movements over the longer term to determine if this policy is a success or not.”

Ms Harvey said the government was failing to acknowledge that “those companies already using the freight network – representing 14.8 per cent of the freight movements – have just been given a $20 per unit bonus”.

She said it was coming at the expense of school funding while road congestion and safety issues remained.

“The subsidy for freight on rail is not the solution,” she said.

In parliament opposition leader Mike Nahan queried how much the subsidy was costing the state.

Ms Saffioti did not offer a figure but said it was “smart spending”.

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