Perth Freight Link: record number of containers moved by rail could signal the future

Intermodal Group general manager Darrin Smith and chief executive officer Ben Higgins want more containers to be carried by train.  Picture: Jon Bassett
Intermodal Group general manager Darrin Smith and chief executive officer Ben Higgins want more containers to be carried by train. Picture: Jon Bassett

A RECORD number of shipping containers on trains is touted as signalling more Fremantle Port trade can go by rail even if the $1.9 billion Perth Freight Link for trucks is not completed.

“The link hasn’t even been decided yet, so this record means rail could be ideally placed to absorb the port’s growth,” train haulage Intermodal Group chief executive officer Ben Higgins said.

Intermodal’s 12-14 weekly trains took the equivalent of 104,000 20ft containers (TEUs) between the port, its rail depot, Kwinana and Kalgoorlie in 2015-16.

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Mr Higgins said breaking 100,000-TEUs resulted from focussing on moving a greater portion of containers, which had fallen 5 per cent overall at the port in the past year.

Intermodal claims its trains take 400 trucks off roads daily, and Mr Higgins said it could reach 130,000 TEUs.

But the company alleges that to pass 130,000 TEUs it needs 15,000sq m of State Government land next to its Forrestfield yards to quicken train turnaround times, and the State Government needed to secure the land by leasing it and not selling it in any asset sale.

“As soon as that is nailed down the volume of containers to rail can increase,” Mr Higgins said.

Trains currently take about 15 per cent of port containers, which PFL opponents fear will fall if the truck toll route creates impetus to get more money from road haulage carrying an anticipated two million TEUs by 2030.

“Intermodal’s record is yet more evidence to show a Kwinana outer harbour and another container depot in the southern corridor are needed sooner, and it’s another reason for the Government not to sign PFL contracts before the State Election next March,” Rethink the Link convenor Kate Kelly said.

Transport Minister Dean Nalder said the Government would consider proposals for Public Transport Authority land next to Intermodal’s Forresfield terminal for freight and logistics on a long-term lease.

He said the Government would “continue to aim” to increase the proportion of freight on rail, which had risen from 2 per cent since 2010.

n Last Friday, PFL opponents sought leave from the High Court of Australia to appeal a WA Supreme Court decision allowing the PFL’s Roe 8 section, which earlier, Mr Nalder said he expected to start at the end of the year, unless anything emerged from “left field”.