Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The future for rail - a QR perspective

• There are a number of major projects in the QR pipeline, how will existing and future plans be affected by the current State governments planned restructuring of the organisation?
This is a really interesting question and I’m sure I’ll be spending a lot of time talking to my colleagues about that at AusRAIL. The key message is that at QR it’s ‘business as usual’. That is what our owners have said to us. They continue to support us as we manage this period which is of course uncertain, until we find out exactly what is going to happen.

My key message in our company is, as I say ‘business as usual’. It’s about safety, it’s about looking after our customers, it’s about performing well commercially and it’s about growing the business. We are focussed on all of these things and we have a series of plans underway around this.

We are seeing evidence of continuing improvement in our business. Some of the recent contracts that we’ve won show that, even in this period of uncertainty, we’re keeping our eye on the ball: we’re really focussed on looking after our customers, we’re really focussed on growing our business. Ultimately the question of privatisation is what we are interested in, but it’s a question for the owners.

• Rail is touted as the future for freight transport in a carbon constrained world, but some claim much of the existing road freight task is not interchangeable with rail. How can rail better position itself for the anticipated growth in freight towards 2030?
I think this has got to be a debate that is less about either/or and instead about how we do more with less. How we cooperate and how we really get the best out of a multimodal environment in Australia.

This is a debate that’s been going on for a while and that I’ve been engaged in from lots of different perspectives. As we think about carbon constrained growth and the scale of the growth, and notwithstanding the scale of the GFC, we still expect to see interstate volumes double in the next 15 years.

We can see the size of the resource task in Australia. Rail is well positioned around this and furthermore, we have the environmental advantage. We are building on the work that has been going on in the freight networks, particularly the investment that has gone into the interstate network, the considerable spending by the ARTC.

The challenge is how to take advantage of all of that: how do we have the right terminals? How do we put together, the right quality of service? How do we get the message out there that we have these environmental credentials and that we are able to trade on it to take maximum advantage out of it? Again, this is a large part of the discussion I think we’ve got to have as an industry and with our customers in the days, weeks and months ahead.

• Finally Lance, what positive messages do you hope to see coming out of AusRAIL Plus 2009?
I think it is all about leadership. We are in a very different situation [compared to previous years], we’ve experienced the real impact of the GFC over the last 12 months. Yet there is so much going on in our industry; whether, as in our case, it’s the whole question of privatisation and what it will mean for us, our major competitor in the freight space has been through a revitalisation, we can see the tremendous growth the passenger parts of our business are achieving, there are lots of great opportunities out there. Equally, there are lots of challenges that we’ve got to meet head on. That’s where leadership is important.

This is the opportunity for the entire breadth of leadership in and around this industry to come together, understand what those challenges are, talk about it and demonstrate the kind of leadership we need to really take our industry and our businesses forward. I’m looking forward to it. I think its going to be a great time and we’ll get a really good ‘kick along’ out of this conference. I think it will be a great time.


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