The Case for Rail

Benefits of the Restoration of the Railway Line

The restoration of the railway line would bring multiple benefits to the community.

1. Facilitating Decentralisation of Melbourne

Melbourne is anticipated to grow to 7 million people by 2050. There are major costs for providing sufficient infrastructure for the development of Melbourne in the next 5 to 10 years. There is evidence that suggests that a strategy of urban consolidation and decentralisation can reduce these costs by up to 20%. (AECGroup economic study for the North Queensland Economic Development Conference 2008)
There is already significant growth along the Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong, Shepparton and Gippsland railway line. The restoration of the railway line to South Gippsland would allow for taking pressure off the growth of Melbourne along with these other areas.
The growth in passenger traffic on the railway line is associated with the rapid increase of subdivisions in Ballarat, Geelong, Bendigo and Seymour. Along the Gippsland line some 1200 allotments each in Drouin and Warragul, 400 in Sale, between 600/800 in Bairnsdale and 100 in Lakes Entrance.

2. Being competitive in a low carbon economy

Rail lines can be up to 3 to 5 times more energy efficient than conventional motorised logistics. Cities and regions globally are already recognising that rail provides a more sustainable low carbon green transport logistics that adds to the competitiveness of regions and communities. The twin imperatives of a low carbon economy and peak oil will see a flow on of competitiveness to those regions that have this infrastructure.

3. Freight logistics

The provision of a low carbon rail logistics system will materially assist the ongoing competitiveness of the dairy industry, the Nyora sand complex, and other industrial and agricultural producers. Murray Goulburn is already the largest exporter from the Port of Melbourne and similar plants on the Bairnsdale rail corridor are already seen as potential customers, if the rail freight option could become more competitive in accessing the Port of Melbourne. This means that Murray Goulburn in Maffra and National Foods in Morwell would have access to rail while the current Leongatha facility along with Burra foods does not. Maintaining these industries will become increasingly dependant on raising their energy efficiency and reducing their carbon footprint.

4. Future industrial development

Competitive advantage will increasingly be driven by access to low carbon transport logistics and more energy efficient transport. The Grid report on the growth potential for the Latrobe Valley identifies the critical need for alternative port and rail access to the Valley for prefabricated large scale infrastructure. There is also significant potential for the development of the Gelliondale brown coal deposits into biofertilisers, with the potential market being the whole of South Eastern Australia, and for various coal related projects in the Latrobe Valley. To facilitate this will ultimately require the restoration of the rail line and rail access to Port Anthony.

5. Sustainable Tourism

It is increasingly recognised that consumer preference is shifting towards more sustainable tourist industries. There is indicative evidence that with the rising price of oil and with carbon taxes on international travellers that tourism industry will be driven by less long distance travel and more regional travel that can be conducted with a low carbon footprint. The restoration of the railway line provides for a means of having affordable access for tourists to South Gippsland area. There is already a major growth in tourist traffic using the other rail corridors to Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong, Warrnambool, Traralgon and Albury / Wodonga. Rail based tourism is growing significantly in Victoria.

6. Transport access to Melbourne

Through time the redevelopment of the rail line will provide affordable, efficient low carbon public transport system that will allow access to Melbourne for both commuters and travellers. In the five year period to 2009 the Geelong line has grown in use by 84%, the Bendigo line by 132% the Ballarat line by 99% the Gippsland line 107%
These figures will increase substantially, as the costs associated with peaking oil will reduce the capacity of people to have affordable private transport to Melbourne.

Personal anecdote: When the Leongatha Line closed in 1993, there was standing room only, on evening trains, when they left Dandenong – especially on Fridays.