AUSTRALIA: Following the announcement that Pacific National was looking to discontinue many rural freight services (RG 2.08 p76), the state of Victoria has taken steps to safeguard rail freight for the next two years. On February 26 Premier John Brumby announced an A$20m Rail Freight Support Package, designed to ensure the continuation of container and grain traffic.

'These measures will provide vital short-term support to ensure rail freight is a viable alternative to road as the industry restructures and major projects to improve the network are implemented', he explained. 'The state's regional freight network is an important part of the economies of many regional communities, and the government is committed to developing a network that is sustainable.'

The package will provide a rebate on track access charges for export grain traffic, matching a rebate for domestic grain movements which was announced in December. Rebates will also be provided for container traffic moving to and from Warrnambool, Horsham, Mildura and Shepparton/Tocumwal. According to Minister for Public Transport Lynne Kosky, 'the rebate will be based on a benchmark rate of A$100 per TEU, adjusted for volume and distance'. At present the four terminals are handling around 40 000 containers a year.