RURAL transporters have welcomed the State government’s announcement to develop an “integrated, multimodal transport strategy” to improve safety and productivity for WA’s agricultural regions.
The strategy will be developed by a multi-agency team made up from representatives from the Department of Transport, Main Roads Western Australia, the Public Transport Authority and the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development.
The team will engage with external stakeholders throughout various stages of the process to ensure that the entire supply chain is addressed.
WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said the Revitalising Agricultural Region Freight Strategy was being developed to respond to a number of significant changes to the grain export industry in recent years, coupled with the need to continually improve safety and cost efficiency.
“Improving transport efficiency across the supply chains that agriculture relies on to get products to global markets can contribute to reduced costs, and enhance the national and international competitiveness of WA products,” Ms Saffioti said.
“This strategy is just another part of our integrated plan for freight and trade, which will help drive economic growth and jobs for years to come.”
Ms Saffioti said the strategy would ensure the transport component of the supply chain reflected both current and future trends of the agricultural industry.
The strategy will identify and prioritise specific infrastructure upgrades, technological solutions and policy measures that will enhance road safety and freight transport productivity.
It will also provide the context for business cases to be developed for road, rail, intermodal and port projects for the next 10 years, which will facilitate freight productivity improvements and assist in better positioning WA’s key regional agricultural supply chains for future growth.
Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan said “an effective regional freight transport network is critical for the long-term economic development of Western Australia”.
“With increased competition from Black Sea grain, our growers need an efficient freight network to remain internationally competitive,” Ms MacTiernan said.
The Livestock and Rural Transport Association of WA (LRTAWA), the association representing most transporters carrying grain, fertiliser, livestock and other rural commodities and inputs, welcomed the plan to develop an Agricultural Region Freight Strategy.
LRTAWA president Stephen Marley said the industry had been calling for a strategic approach to regional freight for some time.
“Our members are keen to see a plan that recognises the unique challenges of rural transport as well as the economic benefit to be obtained from an efficient network,” Mr Marley said.
“It was pleasing to see a focus in the ministers’ announcement on the connection between supply chain efficiency, international competitiveness and economic growth.
“Too often road investment and access decisions are based on the short-term financial capacity of the asset owner rather than the big picture of satisfying the demand of our customers, which for rural commodities, are usually international clients.”
Mr Marley said one of the biggest barriers to efficiency was the lack of connectivity across the network, which often reduced a carrier’s ability to gain maximum benefit from a higher productivity vehicle because road owners had restricted access to sections of the freight corridor.
“This results in higher costs to the grower, more vehicle movements and less productivity overall,” he said.
Mr Marley hoped the consultative process would enable a review of the proposed ‘project area’, which “at this point does not include the urban fringe and the South West”.
“The lack of access for certain vehicle types from regional areas into and around Fremantle and Kwinana is a major obstacle to efficiency and a regional freight strategy could not overlook this aspect.
“A significant amount of lime is transported from the South West into agricultural regions, grain is transported to Bunbury and there are meat processors and a saleyard in this area as well, so it is important to cast the net as far as possible, particularly as we look 10 years ahead and try to predict what changes may occur in the supply chain.
“Land use planning that is sympathetic to major transport corridors from rural to urban areas is critical to future proofing the network and it is hoped this will form a major part of the strategy.
“There is also a significant element of time criticality for some rural inputs – for example, the majority of lime transport occurs over a short period in preparation for seeding.
“Restrictions on road access during this small window can have a significant impact on the agricultural sector’s ability to get product when it needs it and these types of issues need to be addressed by a freight strategy.”
The LRTAWA was hoping to have the opportunity to engage in the strategy and ensure the best outcomes for members and their clients.