Publication Details

Gray, I., Laird, P. & Montague, N. (2015). Rail freight for regional development. Sustainable Economic Growth for Regional Australia (SEGRA) Conference


The potential of rail freight to grow regional economies by boosting local primary and secondary industry is now well documented in research and commentary, as is the desirability of increasing rail freight's modal share. Branch line railways can contribute. North American experience, where small railways contribute 25 per cent of the freight moved on the main lines, and attempts at reviving branch line freight here, have revealed what could be done with the right model. The case of the Blayney-Demondrille (Cowra) line in the Central West of New South Wales shows the promise. However, its ongoing process of revival also shows the necessity for a simple and effective model of a way to make it happen. The overall economics of branch line operation is not what is getting in the way. People trying to develop rail freight are hampered by misconceptions among potential rail customers, governments and even parts of the rail industry. These misconceptions include ideas about distance breakeven points for road and rail, the capital and operating costs of railways, the potential for 'first and last mile' railways and relations among large and small rail operators. There also appears to be little appreciation of the benefits of railways which focus on local and regional development. The paper discusses these issues with an eye on potential developments in regional New South Wales and proposes some principles for a simple and reliable process of branch line development.