CSIRO Inland Rail Supply Chain Mapping Project

Results from the Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) Supply Chain Mapping Project found that existing road-based supply chains could save an average of $80.77 per payload tonne when shifted to Inland Rail.

An organizational graphic depicts an estimate of $80.77 per payload tonne cost reduction on transport when switching from existing road based supply chains to Inland Rail.

Using CSIRO’s Transport Network Strategic Investment Tool (TraNSIT), the Project found the largest potential for cost reductions relate to existing road-based supply chains that switch to Inland Rail and have the potential to deliver $179 million in transport cost reductions.

Investigate the Key Findings or read the full Reference Case Modelling Report.

The main components of the $179 million in potential transport costs savings when intermodal freight is shifted from road to Inland Rail are attributed to freight moving:

  • between Melbourne and Brisbane for the entire Inland Rail length ($74.5 million per year savings across 822,000 payload tonnes)
  • between Brisbane and Parkes, connecting through to Perth ($32.3 million per year savings across 168,000 payload tonnes)
  • between Brisbane and Parkes, connecting through to Adelaide ($16.5 million savings per year across 412,000 payload tonnes), and;
  • regional intermodal freight moving along Inland Rail to and from major metropolitan centres and ports ($55.0 million per year savings across 878,000 payload tonnes).
  Modal shift from road to rail  
Route Total transport cost reduction ($/year) Payload tonnes with a cost reduction
Brisbane and Melbourne $74,567,177 822,355
Brisbane and Perth $32,385,825 168,439
Brisbane and Adelaide $16,560,639 411,817
Regional Routes $55,007,877 877,604
Total Intermodal $178,521,518 2,280,215
Other Commodities 1    
Total All Routes $178,521,518 2,280,215
  Existing rail users  
Route Total transport cost reduction ($/year) Payload tonnes with a cost reduction
Brisbane and Melbourne $15,010,099 488,923
Brisbane and Perth $5,200,360 147,178
Brisbane and Adelaide $654,425 32,273
Regional Routes $354,102 637,680
Total Intermodal $21,218,986 1,306,054
Other Commodities 1 $13,242,972 18,654,637
Total All Routes $34,461,958 19,960,691
  All commodities switching to Inland Rail  
Route Total transport cost reduction ($/year) Payload tonnes with a cost reduction
Brisbane and Melbourne $89,577,276 1,311,278
Brisbane and Perth $37,586,185 315,617
Brisbane and Adelaide $17,215,064 444,090
Regional Routes $55,361,979 1,515,284
Total Intermodal $199,740,504 3,586,269
Other Commodities 1 $13,242,972 18,654,637
Total All Routes $212,763,234 22,240,906

[1] Bulk commodities, most of which only use a small section of Inland Rail

CSIRO modelled the potential transport cost reductions for 94 commodities, which included over 1 million annual road and rail transport movements that could switch to Inland Rail. These commodities have been grouped into 8 categories:

  • General freight
  • Horticulture
  • Vehicles
  • Processed food
  • Wood products
  • Cropping
  • Livestock
  • Mining
An organisational infographic categorises the 94 commodities into eight classifications. These classifications depict the average potential transport cost reductions per tonne when switching from road to rail. Wood products value at $90.03, Vehicles at $168.46, Processed Food at $57.82, Horticulture at $99.21, Mining at $60.39, Livestock at $4.17, General Freight at $86.87, Cropping at $48.87.

A full list of the commodities investigated as part of the Project can be found at Appendix B of the Inland Rail Supply Chain Mapping Reference Case Modelling.

CSIRO consulted stakeholders, including local and state governments, regional development and industry representatives along the Inland Rail corridor through 45 face-to-face meetings and 20 regional workshops to identify supply chains for the study.

As part of this consultation, freight operators and major manufacturers were involved to gather data and other information related to production and processing to create a better understanding of the operation of supply chains at a local level.

This consultation phase was key in validating and updating existing data related to commodities already contained within TraNSIT from previous research, and the addition of new commodities data.

A decorative image depicting CSIRO consulting the Inland Rail corridor stakeholders to assure regional supply chains were accurately identified and modelled.

The study takes account of a number of variables related to rail and road transport including the configuration of the train and rolling stock (wagons), the cost of fuel, and maintenance of freight infrastructure.

The 3 major factors associated with potential transport cost savings include:

  • weight of product – the lower the pay load tonnage, the greater the dollar per tonne saving
  • the amount of Inland Rail corridor that is used
  • the amount of backloading, where the freight is transported on a truck that would otherwise return empty from a trip, or an already chartered truck that has space available for additional items.
A decorative image illustrates the factors used by Inland Rail to calculate transport costs, which include weight, utilisation and backloading. Weight is depicted as a box filled with feathers, with dollar signs superimposed over the box. Utilisation displays a train sitting on a lengthy track with a full piggy bank on top. Back loading is illustrated with a train traveling from one location to another and back again.

Benefits for eastern states

The CSIRO Supply Chain Mapping Project primarily analysed the national benefit of potential transport cost savings by using Inland Rail and as a result has also identified potential savings for freight destined and moving between the eastern states of Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.

Inland Rail has the potential to deliver $149.4 million in transport cost savings each year for intermodal freight and this represents 84% of the total $179 million national benefit.

Reference Case Modelling

The Inland Rail CSIRO Supply Chain Mapping Project has accompanying reference case modelling that provides a detailed summary of the approach, research methodology and supporting analysis for the Project.

TraNSIT output dashboard

The Supply Chain Benchmarking Dashboard was released in October 2021 and is available to members of the public and has the capacity to analyse and compare trends across commodities and their supply chains.