There are differences. ARTC's current charter clearly includes roles that don't have a commercial value to shareholders driver (but they do have a non-commercial value to its current shareholder).
I think it is completely unrealistic to expect those charter activities to continue in any substantial form in a private ownership model.
But like Bing says, and considering the entity as a whole, I don't see private investors handing over lots of money for a set of assets that can't earn enough net income to sustain its network in the long term.
The Hunter Valley, in isolation, is a different case - but your timing is pretty woeful (boom is over - it is cost reduction time now), and all you are selling is a lease of a lease. If I was the NSW state government I'd have my hand out for a good cut of the proceeds. The Hunter Valley is also part of a broader network, that is likely to see increased public service use over the next few decades, so mixing that in could be fun.
East-west, perhaps that's different again. But you don't own the bit of the link from Kalgoorlie to Perth (better hope your business partner is cooperative), and the NSW bit is again a lease of a lease.
I think $4 billion wildly optimistic. We'll see.
I also think a model where major capital investments in this private network (NSFL, Inland Rail) continue to be funded by government unworkable. If you sell it, you sell it, and walk away. One of the main benefits of private ownership of a asset is that the service is less influenced by the political cycle, pork barrelling etc. But if you actively leave open the possibility of large slabs of capital funding coming the way of the new owner, then that benefit no longer applies - in some respects you've made the situation worse.
Melbourne has private rail and tram operations.
Overland is privately run on a subsidy.
Savanalander is privately run on a subsidy.
Numerous freight services in Australia are still run on a subsidy either via access fees or contract. NSW grain, Qld grain, Qld cattle, Vic intrastate, Tas, WA grain.
Feds have also thrown money at Eyre Peninsula grain.
NT line is private
CQ coal is private
Until we get more details we need to get out of heads that the deal requires 100% self funding including major capital funding.
NSW, if I was the Fed Minister for Transport and the NSW Premier phoned up and asked about some cash for them, I hang up laughing.
NSW choose not to fund the Hunter and let it run down,
NSW choose not to fund the interstate and let it run down,
NSW choose not to go fund the billions spent by the Feds to upgrade the Hunter and interstate.
NSW choose to lease out their rail assets and as such the contract and conditions of the lease remain valid what ever they are.
NSW, WA, Vic and Qld lease conditions have probably been checked and do not preclude the Feds from selling or leasing the lease.
Even a lease can have great worth as the lease is effectively open ended and exceeds most of our natural lives. This gives the future owner confidence to spend and get their investment back over the longterm. The $4B, while probably high is a representative of the existing infrastructure worth and future tonnages. But $4B should be generating $400m or more in profit and/or capital growth.
The sale of Vic track and Tas track was a failure because of a small customer base that used those lines over short distances. The customers had short term contracts and the operations were always marginal and probably operating with 1mths notice of cancellation by the customers. The ARTC interstate is far more predictable, customer base is very wide with multiple profitable operators.
Coal Boom's are not always good time to invest infrastructure, you don't know where the peak is and for how long. Coal growth is predicted to relatively constant with slow growth. So the buyer isn't going to be hit with $B expansion requirements from day one.