9220.0.55.001 - Rail Freight Movements, Australia, Summary - Electronic Delivery, 2001-02 and 2002-03  
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This publication presents estimates of freight moved by rail in Australia for the reference periods 1 July 2001 to 30 June 2002 and 1 July 2002 to 30 June 2003. These statistics were compiled on the basis of data collected from private and government-owned organisations involved in moving rail freight in Australia. Respondents were asked to supply information on type and quantity of goods or materials moved and to specify the origin and destination of those goods and materials. Information was also obtained on method of transport.

Note that confidentiality constraints have restricted the level of detail which is releasable for rail freight movements.


All rail movements within Australia and its territories by public and private organisations were included. Freight carried on rolling stock owned, leased, chartered and operated by the rail operator (including sugar tramway operations) was included. Rail freight moved by a freight carrier on behalf of another freight carrier is excluded as the freight carried is reported by the contracted carrier. International freight moving into or out of Australia or in transit (eg. locomotive fuel consumed during the journey) and freight moved by the defence forces were excluded from the survey.

Rail operators were identified using information obtained from various sources (e.g. Department of Transport and Regional Services, state rail access authorities etc.).


Questionnaires were despatched quarterly to all rail freight operators. Respondents were asked to provide information on the origin, destination, commodity type, weight and method of transportation.

Tonne-kilometres were calculated on the weight of freight moved between each origin and destination. The distance for each trip was calculated using information compiled from the ABS Geographic Information System and various other sources.


When interpreting the results of a collection it is important to take into account factors that may affect the reliability of estimates. Such factors can be classified as either sampling or non-sampling error.

As the rail freight components are fully enumerated these data are not subject to sampling error.

Non-sampling error covers the range of errors that are not caused by sampling and can occur in a statistical collection whether it is based on full enumeration or a sample. For example, non-sampling error can occur because of non-response to the statistical collection, errors in reporting by providers, definition or classification difficulties and errors in transcribing and processing data. While the effects of non-sampling error are not quantifiable, every effort is made to minimise the impact by careful design and testing of questionnaires, and efficient operating procedures and systems.

A potentially important factor relating to non-sampling error is the response rate achieved. In the case of the rail freight movements collection responses were received from all known rail freight operators.

Care should be taken in making comparisons over the two reference periods as some of the movements can be attributed to differing reporting methods of tonne-kilometres by providers.


Under the Census and Statistics Act 1905 the ABS is unable to release any information that may lead to the identification of individual businesses. As there are a limited number of rail freight operators operating over particular routes the likelihood of individual businesses being identified is very high. To enable the release of detailed rail freight data the ABS sought formal consent from rail freight operators to allow the release of data that do not meet confidentiality requirements. This consent was not forthcoming from all operators.


Where figures have been rounded, discrepancies may occur between the sums of component items and totals.


Other Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) publications and products which may be of interest are listed below. Please note, older publications may no longer be available through ABS bookshops but are available through ABS libraries. All publications released from 1998 onwards are available on the ABS web site (charges apply).

  • Freight Movements, Australia, Summary cat. no. 9220.0 (year ended 31 March 2001)
  • Coastal Freight in Australia available on the BTRE web site <http://www.btre.gov.au>
  • AVSTATS (Aviation Statistics and Analysis) available on the BTRE web site <http://www.btre.gov.au>
  • Motor Vehicle Census, Australia cat. no. 9309.0 (issued annually from 1995)
  • Survey of Motor Vehicle Use, Australia cat. no. 9208.0 (issued annually from 1998)
  • Sales of New Motor Vehicles, Electronic Delivery cat. no. 9314.0.55.001 (issued monthly from January 2002)


As well as the statistics included in this publication, the ABS has other relevant data available on request. Inquiries should be made to the National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070.