FULL PRIVATISATION OF FREIGHT RAILWAYS
Coming now, to the cusp of the message for the Federal and State Governments, regarding the redevelopment of our total transport substructure based on the freight rail nucleus, it is time to outline the objectives for the NEW (rail) Way and importantly, the method to achieve this with the aid of some of the Direct Action funds. If you haven't already, please read: THE NEW WAY .. AUSTRALIA'S FREIGHT RAIL
There, I have referred to the North American network of private freight rail infrastructure and the systemically pivotal, national trunk line through eastern Australia that we call The Great Australian Trunk Rail System. Read also: THE SOLUTION.
So now it is time to address the method that will attain this New (rail) Way, this Australian version of the North American model of private railroad network(s). This means of course, that almost total Government divestment of rail infrastructure and equipment, pertaining to freight infrastructure needs to occur but, in a way that one commentator, whose name I have unfortunately misplaced, succinctly suggested that governments should “consider ways to maximise the competitive benefit rather than the sales proceeds when privatising state-owned enterprises,...'
How true this comment really is; rail branch lines, many of which are stranded infrastructure -because of the different gauges-, and current main lines cannot be just flogged off to the highest bidder; if there are any expressions of interest, that is. They have been run in the red for so many years, on the various Governments' drip feeds and hopelessly undercapitalised that, forcing the cost of a sale price upon them, will just make them sink further into the red, the best efforts of private enterprise notwithstanding.
Productivity and competitive benefit must be the key drivers in the overall national strategy to redevelop the substructures into a national network.
Pivotal to the national strategy is the GATR System, initially between Melbourne and Brisbane (with an equivalent Class 1 standard link across the southern highlands to Sydney/Canberra). Co-opting the Productivity Commission and Infrastructure Australia, the Federal Government, with the co-operation of the owners, the State Governments, should set the framework for the entry of private enterprise and perhaps, Direct Action grants into the ownership transferral and the New (rail) Way redevelopment. It is envisioned that two Class 1 rail companies will come into existence (but perhaps more?) and their physical introduction will be the construction of the national trunk line, in two parts from north and south, meeting at Parkes in NSW. Each company will own and operate the respective sections but will have reciprocal operating rights or leases over the other's tracks. The Productivity Commission, taking considerable interest in this aspect as this is the real beginnings of full rail freight competition in Australia, will be assessing the various expressions of interest for the greatest competitive benefits and hence will make its recommendation to the Federal Government regarding sizes of financial grants for the respective bidders' projects.
BUT THERE IS MORE.
There is one extant, national trunk line to be considered and that is the east-west line from Parkes to Perth. This line will experience a substantial increase in transport relevance as a result of the north-south trunk operation and should also come under a Class 1 Rail ownership and operations entity. Whether this is an avenue for another Class 1 companyto come into existance or be split between the two winning bidders of the GATR System is not for me to determine but the obvious path should come to the fore during the EOI process and be finally determined as a result of the tendering process. The GATR System beneficially affects the whole of the Australian transport substructure and operations so the Class 1s of the GATR System will develop wide ranging reach to all corners of the nation and be the springboard to northern Australian development and the spread of a full transport network linking into the broad Indonesian archipelago. Read the ASIAN EXPRESS.
Establishing the Class 2 & 3 private railroads, the vital sub-structures of a national transport network.
The absolute pillars of viable and productive shortlines are clearly, the Class1, national trunklines forming the major arteries of a national network. Put another way, a national network is a trunkline borne system that isn't complete until the cross connector (Class 2) and branch/shortline (Class 3) subsectors are in place. Then comes the enterprise and investment of the private sector followed by the recognition by the Federal Govt. (Infrastructure Australia & the Productivity Commission) that strategic grants will be necessary in order to overcome the huge backlog in track renewal and maintenance.