Rail crucial to Australia’s fight against COVID-19

Tucked away in a group of unassuming buildings in Keswick, teams of people are working around-the-clock to ensure safe passage for 1,800-metre freight trains carrying vital supplies of food and household items en route to shopping baskets across Australia.

These same dedicated workers are also ensuring the country’s key commodities continue to reach domestic and export markets to help underpin our economy, while also serving to maintain and develop the nation’s rail network to keep our supply chain intact.

ARTC Chief Executive Officer John Fullerton, who leads a team of more than 1600 employees to manage and maintain 8500km of the national rail network, says the rail freight sector has stepped up to ease Australia’s strained supply lines.

“Freight trains are playing a crucial role in Australia’s response to the coronavirus pandemic – and our frontline teams are really part of a group of workers making sure the economy and society is able to keep functioning during these difficult times,” Mr Fullerton said.

In March, national general rail freight movements on the ARTC network jumped 14 percent*, as demand continues to soar for critical supplies following escalation of the COVID-19 outbreak.

“The COVID-19 outbreak has sparked an unprecedented challenge for Australia’s freight and transport industry, with the country’s demand for critical supplies prompting a surge in rail freight,” Mr Fullerton said.

“Moving freight to cities and regional towns across the country has never been so important, which is why the government has deemed our industry an essential service.

“This puts a lot of responsibility on our shoulders; but in collaboration with our rail freight customers, government and industry partners it’s been wonderful to see our teams rise to the challenge to keep Australia’s supply chain intact and our economy moving.”

ARTC employs more than 300 people at its Keswick headquarters in South Australia including a dedicated band of network controllers who share an intensive 24-hour, 365-day roster to ensure coordinated passage for the country’s freight trains in the rail equivalent of an air traffic control centre.

The companies’ operations include grain, steel, coal and interstate goods trains that stretch almost 2km and capable of hauling up to 260 shipping containers.

The company also has teams of railwaymen and women working day and night across the nation including the middle of the Nullarbor doing maintenance to help move vital freight to its destination.

“We’re really proud to be able to keep freight trains moving and do our bit for Australia, but like other essential service providers, these are testing times for everyone and there’s still a long road ahead,” Mr Fullerton said.

“Importantly, we continue to implement strict hygiene protocols and preventative measures to not only protect the health and safety of our people, but also the local communities in which we operate.

“There’s definitely a lot of uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, but we’ll continue to work hard with our customers and partners to ensure supplies continue to ride the rails and get to where they need to be.”


Media contact: ARTC media team 1300 196 401

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