Sunday, 2 December 2012

Interchange - Australia's forgotten traffic potential

One of the unfortunate side-effects of National Rail's formation in the early-nineties was the abandonment of interchange traffic between Freightcorp, V/line, Westrail and AN. Prior to NR's arrival, the state systems and Australian National had cooperated together, sharing rollingstock and moving each others traffic from one side of Australia to the other. A single interstate operator ended this, and now it appears open access is perpetuating the situation. So what's so good about interchange? Well, think of it this way. These days if an operator finds a traffic flow from Point A to Point B, that traffic must be large enough to generate a profitable trainload. If it isn't it may not make its way onto rail. Why? Well, if the primary corridor operator at Point A doesn't run any trains to Point B it may not be interested in the task...the rail operator at Point B could well share the same view. But what if both operators met at Point C? On paper, this would appear to be a viable point for interchange - with the operators sharing the rollingstock and profits from a single traffic flow. The trouble is, the Australian tradition of mutual cooperation has been lost in the last twenty years. There's no environment for interchange, nor are there any hard and fast rules laid down for sharing freight tasks. This could be a lack of historical awareness at a corporate level, or genuine preference to avoid sharing a limited traffic flow simply out of corporate spite. Again what appears to be lost on operators is that volume is volume. Filling your trains on your primary corridor should be more important than running a half-empty train across the country just because you're the competitor in an open access environment.

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