Whilst the glory days of rail freight may be behind us, there has long been a view that rail freight has been one of the most efficient and affordable modes of transporting specific types of freight over the years. Particularly when it comes to long haul bulk commodities such as food supplies, wholesale materials and machinery.

With major lines up and down the east coast of Australia and across the Nullarbor, it continues to be one of the driving forces in Australian logistics. But with demand continuing to increase over the years and infrastructure struggling to keep up, where to next for rail freight…?

There has also long been a view that rail freight is also the most energy efficient way of transporting freight. Despite its numerous challenges rail freight has far greater potential to meet its zero emission obligations than road freight vehicles and air freight. With that in mind is it time that we open our eyes to investing in the infrastructure to help with the increased demand as our local economy continues to grow.

As one of the slowest modes of transport, rail freight serves a specific purpose and provides niche markets with a way to prioritise their supply chain to enhance their overall operations. In such a competitive market with margins scrutinised it can often be the best decision to use rail freight opposed to road freight if you are ahead of the game.

The trucking industry has already taken a large portion of most of the Australian rail freight business as demand for local freight continues to increase. With high maintenance and expansion costs that come with rail freight, the industry has little room to wiggle when it comes to alternatives and more rail options. With rail lines subject to thousands of kilometres of required infrastructure, the demand for rail freight would need to increase ten-fold to make this a viable option. Is it time for Australia to adopt newer emerging rail options to that of in Europe and Asia that has seen vast rail networks created to transport freight at record speeds between major hubs…?

Could the industry go full circle and move towards investing in a completely new rail system specifically used for freight? Only time will tell as the Australian economy continues to grow as it comes out of lockdown.

With trucking shortages ongoing and driver shortages beginning to impact jobs, how long will the industry be able to keep up if other modes of transportation are left behind.

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