The multi-million dollar Riverina Intermodal Freight and Logistics (RiFL) project, due for full completion later this year, provides a freight solution for Australia’s eastern seaboard that is likely to grow the region, support jobs and bring positive sustainability outcomes. In this interview, we chat with Lee Schmelich, Visy Logistics’ Country Manager for Australia, about the nation-building project.

From a construction perspective, what does the RiFL project actually involve?

Based in Wagga Wagga, we’ve partnered with Wagga Wagga City Council to build and operate a rail hub and siding from the existing inland rail line, the Main Southern Railway. The master siding, funded through the NSW Government’s Fixing Country Rail program, is over four kilometres long and connected to the ARTC loop line, which gives us the flexibility to send freight trains from the region north to Sydney or south to Melbourne. Alongside the siding, we’re commissioning a terminal that’s half a kilometre long.

You really need to see the project to appreciate its scale. For example, to build the siding over 100,000m3 of dirt had to be moved. Surfacing the terminal has taken over one million pavers – if you’ve ever paved anything in your backyard you’ll appreciate that’s a lot of pavers.

How does the project support the region?

The project is funded by Wagga Wagga City Council, NSW Government and Visy, and is a significant investment in the future of the region. The council and government are committed to growing the region, and Visy supports that vision.

RiFL supports the region’s ability to grow by making it attractive to producers, manufacturers and businesses to base themselves locally. This provides a more cost-effective operating model than a capital city base, and access to a rail solution makes it a viable option for businesses relying on imports and exports. The Riverina is a major export region and RiFL supports that focus by providing regional connectivity for exporters and importers.

When you think about regional growth generally, there’s often a bit of a ‘snowball’ effect going on. You want to attract businesses to the region with lower operating costs, supported by the right infrastructure. You want to attract people to the region with building and manufacturing jobs. And when more businesses and people come to a region, then you need more housing, infrastructure and logistics options. Growth reinforces further growth.

RiFL will help take trucks off the road – locally and along the Hume Highway - providing a cost efficient and sustainable transport solution via the rail hub. With ultimate capacity for trains each carrying a volume of containers that would ordinarily require up to 134 trucks to transport, RiFL not only takes pressure off local roads, but will likely provide greater opportunities for local businesses and support local jobs in the area.

Who will use the RiFL terminal?

Visy Logistics will operate RiFL as an open access terminal. This means Visy will operate the terminal and provide logistics solutions and services to businesses in the Riverina region. Once RiFL is fully complete in October, we will offer a full service logistics solution for local producers including warehousing at the RiFL terminal, terminal to port rail services, and global forwarding to export markets, opening up greater domestic and international opportunities for the region. Our aim is to develop solutions and services to further encourage business development in regional NSW.

RiFL will also provide a logistical hub for Visy’s paper mill in Tumut, allowing us to transport pulp and fibre into Tumut, and paper out of Tumut to national and overseas markets. While we already do this, RiFL allows us to take greater advantage of rail, providing environmental and economic benefits.

How does RiFL fit with Visy Logistics other offerings to customers?

We offer genuine end-to-end logistics capabilities. Visy Logistics was originally formed to serve Visy’s internal logistics requirements. This means we have a natural and deep connection with what’s important to the customer, and a strong understanding of the expectations and the importance of a well-run logistics process. We also know how critical it is to get goods, raw materials and machinery to their destinations on time, at the best cost possible, and in the most environmentally-friendly manner.

We are always looking for ways to safely streamline supply chain processes and innovate to create better value and more sustainable solutions for our customers - our RiFL hub partnership with the Wagga Wagga City Council and the NSW Government is a great example of this.


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this interview are those of Visy.