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    SCT Group ports development manager Matt Eryurek.

Annual reprieve for rail incentives

By Michael Scalzo

Wimmera roads stand to see a continued government and industry-led reduction in road freight with the extension of a rail-freight incentive scheme. 

But while the leader of an Australian logistics company with substantial transport hubs in the Wimmera has praised the announcement, he suggested the scheme’s yearly extensions prevented industry certainty. 

Last week’s State Budget announced a $3.5-million 12-month extension to the Mode Shift Incentive Scheme, MSIS, a program that has intended to incentivise rail over road freight by making it more cost competitive.

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SCT Logistics general manager Matt Eryurek, with an intermodal transport facility at Dooen, said stable long-term government incentives were needed to bring down the cost of rail freight in regional Victoria to ensure the broader advantage of rail transport.

“We commend Freight Victoria, the State Minister for Ports and Freight Melissa Horne and her team for giving us a bit of breathing space for 12 months. And we know the State Government investment in port connectivity and rail network enhancements will have long-term returns,” he said. 

“But our feeling is, the extension remains a gentler way of kicking the tin down the road. A lot of government projects and rail upgrades will already go beyond the 12 month extension of the scheme.

“Our own contracts last longer than 12-months so it does not provide the industry with a lot of certainty. 

“So while we praise the extension we are after a more certain and long-term scheme extension.”

Mr Eryurek said trucks caused nine-times more accidents than trains, cost significant road maintenance and were more environmental polluting. 

“We want to lure more customers onto the rail network. Rail transport is better, but it does cost more,” he said.

“And until all terminals have a mirrored rail connectivity, rail will still incur more costs than road will.”

The State Government stated the MSIS, first introduced in 2014, had removed 28,000 truck trips from state roads every year. 

The scheme’s extension has accompanied a $181-million State Government rail-network maintenance investment in its 2022-23 budget. 

Ms Horne said rail freight was critical to the state economy and its rail investments ensured supply chains remained competitive. 

“Freight volumes are set to soar in the coming decade so this maintenance investment will improve load capacity and line speeds, ensuring we have the best track conditions in almost two decades,” she said. 

Public Transport Minister Ben Carroll said a movement of more freight to rail would reduce truck traffic, contribute to safe roads and lower vehicle emissions and arterial-road congestion.

The entire May 11, 2022 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!