As Port Botany has expanded, truck numbers have risen in Sydney. Photo: John Veage The M5 East is regularly clogged with trucks. Photo: John Veage
The chance of being stuck driving next to an ominously large truck continues to rise in Sydney as the government fails to increase the proportion of goods being moved by rail.
Rapid growth in the volume of goods and commodities being moved through Port Botany is leading to an ever-increasing number of trucks moving from the port through motorways and suburban streets.
The increase comes amid uncertainty about the manner in which the state government’s biggest transport project – the WestConnex motorway – will help trucks getting to and from Port Botany in Sydney’s south-east.
The state Coalition government wants to lift the share of containers moved through the port from 14 per cent to 28 per cent by the start of the next decade. This is a downgrade from the former government’s target of 40 per cent, which it never got close to meeting.
But over the life of the O’Farrell and Baird governments the rail share of containers has remained stuck at about 14 per cent. Official figures for the 2013-14 financial year have not yet been released, but NSW Ports, the new private operator of the port, said about the same volume of rail freight occurred last year as the year before.
This means the share of rail freight moving through the port has probably slipped to about 13 per cent, given the 4 per cent increase in the overall volume of container trade.
Asked at budget estimates this week about the failure to lift the share, the NSW Roads and Freight Minister, Duncan Gay, said: “It is a slight embarrassment that we are still at 14 per cent.”
Mr Gay attributed the failure to move a larger share of goods by rail to improvements in truck access to the port, which started under a program set up by former Ports Minister Joe Tripodi.
“It is success in one area that has stopped progress in another,” Mr Gay said.
The executive general manager for planning and infrastructure at NSW Ports, Marika Calfas, also attributed the lack of growth in rail freight to relatively weak rural exports, construction work at the port, and to the lack of terminals to transport containers by rail.
An intermodal terminal at Enfield, previously due to start in 2012, will become operational later this year. There are also plans for the construction of at least one terminal at Moorebank, though that remains some years away.
“We need the facilities out there to increase capacity,” Ms Calfas said. “We need to be able to take the boxes somewhere.”
The WestConnex motorway is also being presented as a solution to congestion around the port.
Ms Calfas said NSW Ports supported the project, but needed more detail on how it would help trucks get from Foreshore Drive near the port to Sydney’s motorways.
“At the moment it is probably fair to say we really don’t have sufficient detail to understand how the proposal as planned delivers the improvement or delivers the efficient truck access from Port Botany connecting us to the M4 and the M5,” she said.
“We are talking to WestConnex, we are talking to other parties as well, but our primary objective in the interests of the port is to ensure efficient access to [those] M4 and M5 corridors.”
Last year about 2.2 million containers moved through the port.
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