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Isolation proves to be WA’s friend

WA’S transport sector overcame the “tyranny of distance” again in 2000, driving initiatives that will set new benchmarks in efficiency for the nation.

Industry restructuring and reform has benefited WA business, and is expected to continue.

Aviation remained static, however the mid-year start-up of low-cost carriers on the east coast should bring new services and lower airfares to Western Australian corporate and holiday travellers in 2001.

Impulse Airlines plans to enter the tough WA market – where Qantas subsidiary Airlink and Ansett Company Skywest provide regional services – in June 2001 and Virgin Blue in October.

Transport WA director of aviation Nick Belyia said the Government and Perth Airport would present submissions in January to attract these airlines to WA.

Unlike both incarnations of failed carrier, Compass, Impulse and Virgin are better equipped for long-term survival.

“They are well capitalised, have suitable aircraft, are experienced aviators and are likely to pick up a lot of travellers that may have used buses,” Mr Belyia said.

“Sure the WA market is only so big and maybe it can sustain three operators whereas the east coast can sustain four.”

Sea Freight Council of WA executive officer Michael O’Callaghan said the state’s port sector continued to blaze the reform trail.

Mr O’Callaghan’s council is strongly pushing for double stacking of container trains from Fremantle.

This was simply because “the likes of ships’ agents, owners and towage companies based in Melbourne and Sydney weren’t going to do it for us,” he said.

The Bunbury Port Authority’s success in winning a landmark Federal Court case paved the way for foreign towage companies to operate at Australian ports and the appointment of newcomer, Riverwijs set new benchmarks in flexibility, efficiency and price cuts.

It is understood Fremantle’s call for submissions for its $20 million a year towage business may result in similar efficiencies.

In September, Business News readers were advised to lock in sea freight rates before market forces pushed them too high.

We told readers the chronic over-capacity of shipping space that led to depressed rates in the late 1990s had been reversed.

New Westrail owner ARG ruled out across the board freight cuts, but will target selected regional areas with reductions to lure business away from road transport.

Road Transport Forum of WA acting chief executive Howard Croxon said the industry, which had won a substantial share of Westrail’s business since the deregulation of bulk commodities in the early 1990s, was well equipped to deal with such competition.

High fuel prices, the introduction of the GST and diesel and alternative fuel grants had made 2000 a tough year for the trucking industry which was allowed to raise its cartage prices after truckers marched on Parliament in October.

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