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29 Nov 2022: More Detail Required on PortConnex Freight Concept for Brisbane

Started by ozbob, November 29, 2022, 03:40:22 AM

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ozbob

More Detail Required on PortConnex Freight Concept for Brisbane

29th November 2022

RAIL Back On Track (RBoT, http://backontrack.org) has welcomed further information about National Trunk Rail (NTR) Consortium's PortConnex Freight concept (1).

NTR Consortium's PortConnex Freight concept is a 52-km tunnel connection from the Inland Rail line to the Port of Brisbane. NTR Consortium is an interest group composed of industry, business, public service, and business leaders. The concept incorporates an intermodal freight hub near Ebenezer, Ipswich, and automated battery-operated trains operating to the Port of Brisbane.

The PortConnex concept has also not yet demonstrated that it is indeed the highest and best project among potential alternatives. Tunnels are extremely expensive, so can only be justified for the very high volume or high value freight in our view. For example, in 2014 the Australian Rail Track Corporation identified two route options to the Port of Brisbane for more detailed study: a direct "long tunnel" from Acacia Ridge to the Port, and a partial-tunnel "eastern freight rail bypass" following the Gateway corridor (the preferred option at the time). Upgrades of the existing corridor and a longer electrified tunnel to Larapinta were rejected. A feature of the concept is double-stacking of the containers, which results in more freight moved per train. No costing of the project has been publicly released to date.

RAIL Back On Track (RBoT), in principle, supports projects that move mass freight movement from roads to rail, particularly long-distance freight. However, our support for any specific project or initiative - public or private - is dependent on objective and rigorous merit evaluation. A project must generate net benefits for investors, community, or both, and be at least as good or better than potential alternative projects.

The main issue RBoT has with this concept is the lack of a rigorous business case, alternatives analysis and economic evaluation. For example, RBoT is not aware of a public costing of the PortConnex concept, however based on a test value of $100 million/km, the 52-km tunnel would cost in the range of about $5.2 billion (published estimate $6 billion). In other words, it would need to generate and return at least $5.2 billion in private benefits (plus an investor premium), or public benefits to be worthwhile.

We have not seen any information that would suggest PortConnex generating that quantity of benefits over the life of the project and its operations. It is our understanding that freight operators are avoiding rail to the Port of Brisbane due to perceived high access fees. Strategically, we also view the hauling of coal in Queensland for export to be a declining industry. The world is moving away from fossil fuels.

Other questions also remain. For example, who are the target investors? The Federal and State Governments or private investors? What are the past or future freight volumes that would use the line? Would any access fees or charges be set at a level attractive enough to shift freight from road to rail?

The PortConnex concept has also not yet demonstrated that it is indeed the best project among potential alternatives. Alternatives include constructing freight rail in motorway corridors such as the Centenary Highway, Logan Motorway and Gateway Motorways similar to how passenger rail is constructed in motorway corridors in Perth, Western Australia. Another alternative is to use a greater proportion of surface rail and a smaller proportion of tunnel. Tunnels are extremely expensive, so can only be justified for the very high volume or high value freight in our view.

Once again, RAIL Back On Track welcome's the NTR Consortium's PortConnex concept. We look forward to the public release of a rigorous business case, alternatives analysis, and economic evaluation.

Robert Dow
Administration
admin@backontrack.org
RAIL Back On Track https://backontrack.org

References:

1. Brisbanetimes: Pains, trains and automobiles: The $6b plan to solve Brisbane's Inland Rail woes
https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/national/queensland/pains-trains-and-automobiles-the-6b-plan-to-solve-brisbane-s-inland-rail-woes-20221125-p5c1dr.html

2. NTR Consortium
https://nationaltrunkrail.com/frequently-asked-questions/

3. Inland Rail Project
https://inlandrail.artc.com.au/what-is-inland-rail/

4. Alternative routes from "The Case for Inland Rail", ARTC (2015) p10.
https://inlandrail.wpenginepowered.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/case-for-inland-rail-2015.pdf
Half baked projects, have long term consequences ...
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ozbob

Half baked projects, have long term consequences ...
Ozbob's Gallery Forum   Facebook  X  Threads  Mastodon  BlueSky

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