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Another volley has been fired in Sydney's freight wars.
With the spectre of competitors opening a giant new freight hub at Moorebank in Sydney's south-west in 2017, Australia's largest rail and ports company, Asciano, announced plans on Thursday to build a $100 million terminal at St Marys.
The decision will be another step towards a long-stated goal of successive governments of reducing the number of trucks carting containers from Port Botany.
The Baird government has a target of shifting 28 per cent of freight from NSW's main container port by rail by the start of next decade, up from 14 per cent now. However, it is a lower target than the former government's aim of 40 per cent, which it never showed any sign of reaching.
Historically, the number of containers passing through Port Botany has doubled every decade. The recently privatised port has a target of shifting 7 million containers by 2045, up from about 2.2 million now.
While there is capacity to move about 1 million containers a year by rail from the port, only 278,000 were put onto rail last year.
Figures for this year are yet to be released but are expected to be less than 300,000.
Plans to put more containers onto rail suffered a blow when Hong Kong-based Hutchison Ports walked away from a deal to operate a new freight hub at Enfield.
The Enfield terminal is on the southern freight line and NSW Ports, the new private operator of Port Botany, is searching for a company for the recently completed site.
The country's largest transport companies are each pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into new freight hubs in Sydney's west as they attempt to gain the upper hand.
The $1 billion terminal planned for Moorebank will be run by transport company Qube Holdings, which is chaired by well-known businessman Chris Corrigan, and Queensland rail company Aurizon.
It has been estimated that the giant freight hub, which will be built on former defence land, will reduce trucks between Port Botany and western Sydney by 3000 trips a day when it reaches full capacity.
Qube already has rail-freight terminals in Sydney at Minto and Yennora.
Asciano, the owner of stevedore Patrick, is taking a different approach, opting for smaller terminals. Its chief executive, John Mullen, said these would help put more freight onto rail from Port Botany because different areas have different requirements.
The company, which owns rail company Pacific National, already has a freight terminal at Chullora in Sydney's south-west.
Asciano's terminal at St Marys will handle about 300,000 containers a year when fully operational, compared with about 1.2 million at Moorebank.
This article first appeared on www.smh.com.au
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