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The NSW government is falling short of its goal for a larger share of containers to be shifted by train to Port Botany, resulting in more trucks on congested Sydney roads.
While Port Botany handled nearly 5 per cent more containers last year, the total number hauled by train fell by about 5 per cent in 2018, from a year earlier.
It raises the likelihood of the government failing to meet its long-stated aim of boosting the share of Port Botany's rail freight to 28 per cent, or 930,000 containers, by 2021.
Trucks carried a greater proportion of containers to Port Botany last year than in 2017.CREDITETER BRAIG
About 17.7 per cent of containers were carried by rail to and from Port Botany last year, down from 19.4 per cent in 2017, figures from the state's transport agency show.
The government and the private owner of the port blamed the drop in rail freight partly on drought crimping agricultural exports, which make up a large share of freight.
Labor's roads spokesman, John Graham, said the figures showed the government would likely miss its target to shift more containers by rail. "More trucks on the roads is more accidents, more pollution and more road damage," he said.
But Transport Minister Andrew Constance cited a planned duplication of a rail line to the port and opening of an intermodal terminal at Moorebank in Sydney's south west as a "game-changer that will see more freight moved by rail across NSW".
While the Moorebank terminal is expected to be commissioned late this year, the $300 million duplication of a 2.9-kilometre stretch of line from the port to Mascot is not due to be completed until the end of 2023.
Greater frequency of passenger trains to cope with record growth in commuters has reduced room on Sydney's rail network for freight trains. One freight train equates to about 54 trucks.
The government's five-year freight and ports plan, released last September, warned "competition for access to the shared rail network" will continue due to population growth. NSW requires passenger trains to be given "reasonable priority" on the network.
This article first appeared on www.smh.com.au
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