Rail has become a competitive and value-adding component in Australia's interstate transport market.
New Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) CEO John Fullerton wants to position rail freight as a cost-effective transport alternative and to address the perception that rail is not up to the task as a long-haul logistics solution.
Outlining his vision on the future direction of rail freight as part of the national transport and logistics framework, Fullerton said the improvement to the reliability and efficiency of rail freight over the last decade has been significant.
"Rail has become a competitive and value-adding component in Australia's interstate transport market, " he said. "However, the simple truth is that there is still uncertainty in the marketplace as to rail's capability to deliver as a transport solution.
"This must change."
He said rail is now cheaper, more fuel-efficient and more environmentally friendly than long-haul road transport. "On average, rail is around 20% cheaper door-to-door on long-haul routes.
"An important priority for me is to convince customers to switch to rail as there are potentially significant cost benefits available for them."
Fullerton said ARTC will continue to drive the revitalisation of rail freight as a competitive option to trucks and the focus will be between Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.
"As a nation, we do not do enough research into freight transport and related long-term planning. Our country is totally reliant on transport, both for import/export and domestically, and it is vital that we build the appropriate infrastructure to handle the future freight task in an efficient manner."
He said ARTC has undertaken detailed studies that have taken a long-term view of the transport market factoring in fuel prices, labour costs, congestion and carbon costs.
"The conclusion we have reached is that as demand doubles over the next decade, the obstacles facing road transport mean that the increasing logistics burden cannot be handled by trucking alone."