25/03/2009 - 22:00

Road, rail links crucial

25/03/2009 - 22:00

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TRANSPORT networks are crucial to Western Australia's ports, so it's essential that port planning applies the lessons learned from road and rail systems developed in the past.

TRANSPORT networks are crucial to Western Australia's ports, so it's essential that port planning applies the lessons learned from road and rail systems developed in the past.

These transport corridors are vital, as they encourage trade with domestic and overseas markets through the movement of materials, often from remote locations in WA to our coastal ports.

Murdoch University maritime economist Malcolm Tull understands the value of well-planned rail and road networks in supporting successful ports and highlights the operation of private rail lines by mining giants, BHP and Rio Tinto as some of the most efficient he's seen.

"In the last boom, what is remarkable is the extent to which we avoided capacity bottlenecks ... having those coordinated sole operators of the rail line meant that rail-based infrastructure was very efficient," Dr Tull told WA business News.

WAFarmers president Mike Norton strongly believes there are some significant areas of infrastructure in rural WA in need of immediate attention.

"The importance of keeping the state's 3,600-kilometre narrow-gauge rail system viable, to enable bulk grain transport to operate at its maximum potential, is essential," Mr Norton said.

Dr Tull cites a lack of investment in the rural rail network during the past 80 to 90 years as the primary reason for its less-than-exemplary service to the state's farming community.

"Before a private investor will invest they want to ensure they are going to get a satisfactory return and the problem is it's a very seasonal traffic; the volumes are very seasonal and it's probably hard to justify for a private investor the scale of investment required," Dr Tull said.

Earlier this month, Transport Minister Simon O'Brien revealed the state government was seeking an extra $1.3 billion in funding from the federal purse for important transport projects.

"These include $700 million for a range of improvements to Perth's urban transport system and freight corridors, and $600 million to fix transport issues associated with iron ore exports through Port Hedland," Mr O'Brien said.

He said the government was currently investing in improved freight access between Canning Vale and Fremantle Port as well as major projects at Bunbury to improve port access.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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