Published on : Wednesday, February 2, 2022
The supply chains already stretched due to Covid-19-related staff shortages have been severed after floods in South Australia washed away parts of the railway linking the eastern states with Western Australia and the Northern Territory.
Some parts of the Australian Rail Track Corporation network between Adelaide and Tarcoola in SA have temporarily ceased operation, as repair works are under way along a section of track over 300km in length.
The operations to Perth and Darwin have been suspended since 21 January with the ARTC expecting the tracks to remain closed for “at least 12 days”.
The disruption has sparked calls for greater strategic planning for key transport and logistics routes as climate disasters are projected to continue.
The chief executive of Australia’s largest private rail freight company Pacific National, Paul Scurrah, described the Trans-Australian Railway as “the umbilical cord connecting our continent’s eastern and western seaboards – it’s a vital link in Australia’s supply chain”.
Scurrah said while short term solutions are important, in the long term the rail network needs to be more resilient.
The chief executive of Western Roads Federation, Cam Dumesny, said that 80% of WA’s land-based freight arrives via rail. The floods have also damaged key roads, including the Stuart Highway.
Dumesny said the floods have exposed the vulnerability of the nation’s transportation networks and that a better national strategy is needed. They have been only got the two sealed roads across the continent, one on the north and one on the south, with 2000km in between … And we’ve got railway lines which run parallel to both roads so any event generally washes road and rail out simultaneously, Dumesny said.
The executive officer of the NT Road Transport Association, Louise Bilato, said the only way for supplies to get into the NT is now through Queensland across the Barkly Highway, with trucks forced to take a 3000 km detour from Adelaide distribution centres.
Bilato said the additional two days of driving time is not only problematic because of the shortage of truck drivers. It is also significantly more expensive with the price of the diesel exhaust fluid AdBlue surging over 300% since December.