Logistics, Ports & Terminals

Freight on rail should be easy sell: PN boss

Pacific National class 92 locomotives hauling a coal train over a rail bridge crossing the Hunter River at Singleton, NSW. Photo: Creative Commons / Bluedawe.

Pacific National boss Dean Dalla Valle says the rail industry needs to get more involved in its battle against the roads sector, telling a national broadsheet the dominance of the trucking sector must end.

Dalla Valle reportedly told The Australian this week he is looking to find out how to better inject the rail sector into the ongoing road vs. rail debate.

“I tip my hat to the road lobby,” he was quoted as saying in the exclusive interview, “they have been very effective at getting productivity concessions, at getting infrastructure built.”

Dalla Valle, formerly the boss of coal at BHP, took over at Pacific National in July last year, almost a year after the company was restructured via the break-up of Asciano in 2016.

“We have to be in the policy space so that when the government is actually laying out corridors, planning where cities grow, where populations go, where industry goes that rail will be part of that and that the true economics are understood.”

The PN boss believes the public would no doubt like to see more freight on rail, and fewer trucks on the nation’s roads.

But he believes the relatively low number of major players in the rail space, and a history of operations being government-run rather than private sector, have left rail behind in the policy debate.

That lack of involvement is a shame, Dalla Valle believes, because rail should be an easy investment for the government to sell to the public.

“You’re certainly safer [with more freight on rail], there are 16 times fewer emissions than hauling on road, we are more efficient, there is less road congestion and, if we do it right, less infrastructure is needed.

“A lot of Australian policymakers just don’t understand the basic benefits rail freight offers a country with Australia’s growing population and urban distribution.”

Dalla Valle also told The Australian he planned to overhaul much of PN’s technology, which he described as “basically kerosene lamps and candles”.

“Getting advanced management systems, where you have in-cab controls that can actually provide greater safety and efficiency, making sure freight gets to where it has to faster, more reliably at a lower cost – that’s better for the country because it means we don’t have to go building more infrastructure,” he was quoted as saying.

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