Understanding the freight supply chain

Australia’s economy is underpinned by the efficient transportation of freight across vast distances and international borders. Inland Rail is part of a broader freight network of roads, rail, air and sea that must work together as an integrated whole.

Australia’s supply chains are critical to meeting our growing freight task. These freight and supply chains – networks of people and businesses processing, transporting and storing goods – are often behind-the-scenes and can be difficult to see as a whole.

Resilient and productive supply chains are the key to our future economic success and will strengthening the connections between our regions and urban centres.

Australia’s freight systems are the lifeblood of our economy and way of life

Each year our infrastructure operators, transport companies and logistics experts deliver about 4 billion tonnes of goods across Australia – that is 163 tonnes of freight for every person each year.

Melbourne alone requires approximately 15,000 tonnes of food to be delivered every day.

Australian freight supply chains are typically vast, reflecting the size of the country, and come in many different forms. In its most basic form, a supply chain is the network of people, companies, products and services that gathers raw materials, transforms them into products and transports them to their final destination. They rely on many different actors - such as producers, transporters, customs officials, brokers and inspectors.

Freight supply chains get petrol to the service station, fresh foods to supermarket shelves, household waste to tip, construction materials on site and essential pharmaceuticals to our hospitals.

They connect our agriculture regions and resource basins to cities and ports, delivering Australian produce and minerals to international markets.

Enhancing connectivity

Inland Rail will make it easier to move freight from farms, mines, cities and ports to domestic and international markets. Availability and cost are key considerations of freight forwarders and often drive the decision-making process as to whether to transport freight by road or rail.

Inland Rail travels via Parkes, NSW – already a regional hub – and will build on existing regional and urban rail connections to provide access to the ports of Melbourne, Port Kembla, Sydney, Newcastle, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.

The development of new intermodal terminals in Melbourne and Brisbane, with sufficient capacity to accommodate double-stacked high performance trains, is important for the Inland Rail Service Offering.

The National Intermodal Corporation will work with the Commonwealth, State Governments, the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) and industry to develop and operate the Melbourne and Brisbane intermodal freight terminals in time for the commencement of Inland Rail’s full operations

Intermodal terminals in regional centres along the rail corridor are also important to leverage the benefits of the project, build regional supply chains and provide better access to markets. The development of regional intermodal terminals and complementary infrastructure is expected to be largely driven by market opportunities and private investment.

Rail and road interface connections

Investment in Australia’s freight-related infrastructure assets needs to support economic growth and provide signals for private sector investment.

Recognising that the market ultimately determines the scope and location of private investment, the government has supported the development of local proposals and industry ideas on how to enhance the interfaces with Inland Rail.

The $44 million Inland Rail Interface Improvement Program is enabling the development of project ideas for more productive rail-based supply chains and improvements to intersecting country rail lines. Building on the success of the II Program, the Australian Government allocated $150 million in the 2022-23 Budget to fund the delivery of priority infrastructure projects through the Infrastructure Investment Program.

The Government is also working with the states to fund further road and rail interface improvements.

Smarter and targeted infrastructure investment

To ensure Australia is able to meet its emerging freight and supply chain challenges, the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy commits to national action in four critical areas:

  • Smarter and targeted infrastructure.
  • Enable improved supply chain efficiency.
  • Better planning, coordination and regulation.
  • Better freight location and performance data.