The ACCC has functions regulating rail, which arise from the National Access Regime in Part IIIA of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (the Act).
The ACCC’s regulatory work in rail includes:
- assessing Part IIIA undertakings submitted by rail access providers in relation to rail track infrastructure (‘below rail’ services), and
- carrying out functions under accepted undertakings (which includes, if required, arbitrating access disputes).
To date only one rail infrastructure provider, the Australian Rail Track Corporation, has submitted access undertakings under Part IIIA of the Act. Two access undertakings are currently in place, one for the National Interstate Rail Network and one for the Hunter Valley Rail Network in New South Wales.
The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) was established out of a 1997 Inter-Governmental Agreement entered into between the Commonwealth of Australia and the States of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia. ARTC is vertically separated, providing ‘below-rail’ services (such as the rail track infrastructure) but not ‘above-rail’ services (such as haulage). ARTC provides a single point of contact for parties seeking to run trains on the National Interstate Rail Network and the Hunter Valley Rail Network in New South Wales.
The Interstate Rail Network includes the mainline standard gauge track linking: Kalgoorlie in Western Australia; Adelaide, Wolseley and Crystal Brook in South Australia; Melbourne and Wodonga in Victoria; Cootamundra, Albury, Macarthur, Moss Vale, Unanderra, Newcastle (to the Queensland border) and Parkes in New South Wales. The Interstate Rail Network is used by both general freight services (such as manufactured goods) and bulk freight services (such as mining and agriculture products), as well as long distance and regional passenger services.
The Hunter Valley Rail Network is predominantly used to transport coal from mines in the Hunter Valley region to the Port of Newcastle for export and to transport coal to domestic customers, such as power stations. The network is also used by non-coal traffic, including general and bulk freight services (such as grain) and passenger services.
The Interstate Rail Network and Hunter Valley Rail Network are both regulated through access undertakings.
Two access undertakings relating to rail infrastructure are currently in place, one for the Interstate rail network and one for the Hunter Valley Rail Network in New South Wales.
Interstate rail access undertakings
In 2002, the ACCC accepted an access undertaking from ARTC for the Interstate Rail Network. The 2002 Interstate Access Undertaking covered those parts of the network linking Kalgoorlie in Western Australia, Tarcoola in South Australia, Broken Hill in New South Wales, and Melbourne and Wodonga in Victoria. The 2002 Interstate Access Undertaking expired on 1 June 2007. In June 2007, ARTC submitted a replacement access undertaking to the ACCC for assessment but subsequently withdrew its proposal later in the same year. In 2008, the ACCC accepted a revised access undertaking for the Interstate rail network that, among other things, extended the coverage of the rail track. The 2008 Interstate Access Undertaking applies for a ten year term and is due to expire in 2018. On 6 March 2018, ARTC submitted the 2018 Interstate Access Undertaking application, which is intended to replace the 2008 Interstate Access Undertaking. The ACCC is currently assessing the application.
Hunter Valley rail access undertakings
The ACCC accepted an access undertaking from ARTC for the Hunter Valley rail network in 2011. The 2011 Hunter Valley Access Undertaking covers parts of the NSW intra-state rail network, including the Hunter Valley rail lines. In June 2017, the ACCC consented to a variation to the 2011 Hunter Valley Access Undertaking incorporating revised commercial parameters and a new expiry date of 31 December 2021. This followed consideration of earlier versions of a replacement Hunter Valley Access Undertaking submitted by ARTC in 2015 and 2016, which were subsequently withdrawn.