THERE were further developments at the end of February affecting the Adelaide - Alice Springs - Darwin route in Australia.

Northline, Freightlink's second-biggest customer, decided to withdraw some of its business and tender to have it carried by road again. Freightlink Chief Executive John Fullerton put a brave face on the news, telling local media that his company expected to fill the gap in the near future thanks to agreements with other forwarders.

As we said last month, pricing is a key issue, with Freightlink postponing plans to increase rates again this month after a rise last September. Rates are structured to give international shipments lower prices than domestic traffic, but even this incentive appears to have failed to win the anticipated volume of trade through Darwin. Fullerton maintained that the line is 'still in ramp-up mode', while Managing Director of forwarder FCL Bill Gibbons intriguingly told The Australian that moving goods by rail was still 10% to 15% cheaper than road. n