ACCC issues position on Hunter Valley rail network

21 December 2010

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission today issued its position on the access arrangements proposed by the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) for the Hunter Valley rail network.

ARTC's access arrangements set out how users of the rail network would access the infrastructure.

The Hunter Valley rail network transports coal from the region's mines to the Port of Newcastle for export.  Around 100 million tonnes of coal is exported every year, worth about $9 billion per year in export earnings to Australia.  It is one of the largest and most complex coal export operations in the world.

The rail network is also used by passenger trains, grain trains, north-south freight trains crossing the network, and coal trains supplying domestic users such as power stations.

The ACCC ruled on an earlier set of proposed rail access arrangements in March 2010. It found there would need to be increased focus on ensuring the overall efficiency of the end-to-end coal export chain – including the interaction with the long term solution at the port that has been authorised by the ACCC.

ARTC submitted revised rail access arrangements in September 2010.

Under the revised arrangements ARTC, port terminal operators, above-rail operators and coal miners would work with the Hunter Valley Coal Chain Coordinator to coordinate the operations of the rail network, the mines and the port – to maximise coal chain capacity and minimise shipping queues.

The arrangements also provide for an industry group to make ongoing decisions about new rail infrastructure investment.

The ACCC's view is that the revised arrangements would have significant benefits for the efficient operation and use of the Hunter Valley coal chain. They would help to underpin one of Australia's major export chains and support new investment in infrastructure in the Hunter Valley as the coal chain expands.

The ACCC recognises that these are ground-breaking developments by industry and considers there are some areas where detail needs to be finalised.

The access arrangements also seek to balance the needs of other users of the rail network. The arrangements recognise the interests of non-coal, domestic users and passenger trains.

The ACCC will now consider any amendments made by ARTC to finalise the matters raised in the Position Paper, before deciding whether to accept the proposed access arrangements. If the remaining details could be finalised, the ACCC considers that it should be possible to move promptly to implementation of the access arrangements.

The ACCC acknowledges the work that ARTC and industry have put into these arrangements to date.

The full document setting out the ACCC's view will be available on the ACCC website

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NR 280/10
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