More trucks off local roads

Sean Car

Work on a brand-new rail infrastructure project at the Port of Melbourne is now under way, which Minister for Ports and Freight Melissa Horne described as a “game-changer” for getting more big trucks off our roads.

In an initiative which the state government says will move more than 160,000 truck trips from road onto rail every year, ground was broken on the $125 million Port Rail Transformation Project by the Minister and Port of Melbourne CEO Saul Cannon (pictured) on December 9.

As a condition of the 50-year lease signed with the Port of Melbourne in 2016, the state government made it a requirement for the company to fund and deliver an on-dock rail solution to improve freight efficiency and reduce truck congestion at the port gate.

In order to shift from road to rail, the project will also create intermodal terminal connections at Altona, Dandenong South, and Somerton. The state government said it was also working with the Commonwealth to deliver new terminals in Melbourne’s north and west, with planning having already begun for the Western Intermodal Freight Precinct at Truganina that will take 2000 trucks a day off our roads.

Minister Horne said the project would have a significant impact on the local area when it was completed in 2023.

“The only real way you can get freight moving around Melbourne at the moment is to move trucks in and out and part of the problem you see in the west and the area around Docklands is that so many trucks are carrying empty containers,” Minister Horne said.

“So, you’ve got all of these empty container yards and they’re doing these short shuttle runs, so instead with having this built and the hubs, or the inland ports as the industry likes to call them, it will allow the port and the freight forwarders to put it onto rail. It will go out to Altona, Somerton or Dandenong and then everything hubs in and out of there, so it will get a massive number of trucks off these local roads, but it will make it so much more efficient.”

Port of Melbourne CEO Saul Cannon said, “We are excited to see this project coming out of the ground. Port of Melbourne is committed to investing in rail infrastructure to move more freight by rail.”

With freight volumes expected to double by 2050, the Port of Melbourne has been working to ensure that the port supply chain is operating as efficiently as possible throughout the pandemic, following a 14.6 per cent increase in containers coming through the port in the 2020/2021 financial year.

Minister Horne also said that the Port of Melbourne would integrate the project with a long-term plan to create a rail link across the Yarra River between Swanson and Webb Docks.

And she reiterated that it was her understanding that link would be in the form of a bridge.

“My understanding is the port will totally integrate that [freight link to Webb Dock] with this [Port Rail Transformation],” she said.

“A bridge is what’s in their plans at the moment, which I think is exciting, but again, that’s a little way off.” •

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