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Prime Mover Magazine

CSIRO report studies flood impact and rail-to-road feasibility

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) recently released its TraNSIT (Transport Network Strategic Investment Tool) agricultural report, which alongside a comprehensive map of routes and costings across Australia's entire agricultural supply chain also features a flood case study and rail-to-road scenarios.

“Several case studies were identified by industry and government for this final report, representing TraNSIT's diversity of applications across Australia,” said Dr Higgins, project leader of the CSIRO’s TraNSIT tool.

Researchers applied TraNSIT to evaluate the impact of road closures and detours on the transport of valuable crops and livestock during flood events, using Forbes in Central West, New South Wales, as an important case study.

From early September to mid-October 2016, severe rainfall caused extensive road closures throughout New South Wales, with Forbes becoming particularly isolated.

“The Forbes area is a diverse agricultural region of grain production, beef cattle, poultry, dairy and pigs,” said Dr Higgins.

“There was about a $2 million increase in transport costs created by the short-term and long-term road closures from this flooding event, and about another 500 vehicle trips that could not occur as there was no alternative routes.

“The cost would have been even greater if the floods had occurred during harvest season where more cotton and grain are being transported in large volumes on the roads.”

Using TraNSIT, researchers can analyse several ways to reduce the economic impact of floods in country regions and throughout Australia, including upgrading or raising particular bridges to reduce the frequency of closures from flooding. In turn, this will reduce the occurrences where cattle or harvested crops cannot reach their market.

The rail-to-road hypothetical scenario looked at the impact of shifting all agriculture (grains, beef, sugar, cotton) that currently use rail to be road only.

Grains were more expensive ($208 million) when transported by road while cattle (or beef) was much less expensive (about 70 per cent less). These differences were primarily due to rail wagon capacity versus semi-trailer capacity.

TraNSIT is now being applied overseas, particularly in Indonesia, Laos and Vietnam, to address supply chain inefficiencies and cross-border bottlenecks.

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