Response to community submissions to the new M5 East EIS which raised concerns about road freight. From Section B, Chapter 5 of the Submissions Report
5.4.13 Strategic alternatives – freight 1,028 submitters raised issues regarding freight. Submissions relating to project development and alternatives raised the issue that the improvement of the transportation of goods via rail freight should be prioritised over transporting goods via trucks on inner city roads. Submissions noted that by replacing road freight with rail freight there would also be potential road safety benefits.
Section 4.2 of the EIS considers the merits of the project in the context of a range of alternatives, including an alternative which considers investment only in public transport and rail freight improvements.
Improvements to the rail freight network will contribute to relieving road congestion through incentivising the use of rail freight ahead of using the road network. However, Sydney’s continued reliance on dispersed, point-to-point transport connections coupled with ongoing population expansion in the Sydney metropolitan area means that rail freight alternatives would not fully meet the diverse range of needs for travel along the M5 Motorway corridor, at the same time as meeting the project objectives outlined in Section 3.5 of the EIS. Section 4.2 of the EIS and the additional detail below expands on this assessment. Sydney’s freight, service and business task is large and significant. 98 per cent of containers imported through Port Botany, and more than 60 per cent of exported containers, have their destinations or origin within Greater Sydney. Rail freight transport is more effective for long distance transport of goods to regional centres. However, Sydney’s freight, service and business task requiring distribution within the Sydney metropolitan area relies on dispersed point-to-point transport connections to customers. Predominantly, freight rail serves the first leg of the freight journey, with containerised freight broken down at distribution nodes and further distributed across Sydney. In managing the freight task, heavy commercial vehicles require a primary network with high quality connections between major freight hubs, whereas light commercial vehicles depend on a multi-layered network with many connections to service more diverse and dispersed markets across Sydney. This arrangement means that there are around four times as many light commercial vehicle trips on Sydney’s road network as heavy commercial vehicle trips (Transport for NSW 2013d), and this trend is forecast to continue. A key reason for this trend is that heavy freight activity precincts are concentrated in a few key locations in the vicinity of the port and across western Sydney, and this land use pattern is also set to continue into the future. The NSW Government is prioritising opportunities to increase the proportion of freight which is transported by rail through improved performance of the rail freight network, capacity enhancements and where necessary, the use of pricing (Transport for NSW, 2013d). However, even a doubling of the amount of container freight currently moved by rail (by 2020) would still mean that more than 70 per cent of Port Botany’s projected trade would be via road. These projections solidify the requirement for investment in an efficient road network to act in tandem with port and airport precincts. Improving connections between the Sydney airport and ports precinct and the wider Sydney motorway network has been identified as an imperative by the Government and Infrastructure NSW. Investment in additional road infrastructure, such WestConnex, would increase connections to Sydney’s west, where the majority of airport and port freight traffic originates or ends. There are significant differences between the operational requirements for bulk and container ports, and as recognised in the NSW Freight and Ports Strategy, the future planning for NSW ports need to be tailored for what is suitable for a particular region and port. With respect to Port Botany, this port would remain the key container port in NSW, and will continue to grow to accommodate future demand. This will be supported by transport network planning and investment. However, Port Kembla will need to play a role in accommodating the State’s container trade in the future with the approved Outer Harbour Concept Plan envisioning the future construction of two separate container facilities between 2014 – 2025, and 2026 – 2037, depending on demand.