Infrastructure and industry ministers have met with key rail stakeholders in Canberra to examine a range of issues that have the potential to grow and improve the rail industry.

The Board of the Australasian Railway Association briefed the ministers on the challenges and opportunities associated with one of Australia’s key freight and transport sectors.

Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Darren Chester, said engagement with stakeholders, including business and industry groups, was essential for securing a strong national transport system that meets the needs of Australia’s freight and passenger rail task in the future.

“Rail plays a significant role in the productivity of our nation, and I am always keen to hear the views of industry on how we can ensure rail continues to meet the needs of both commuters and industry,” Mr Chester said.

“Today’s meeting explored a range of issues associated with growing the industry, including discussion about a national rail industry plan.

Australasian Railway Association Chief Executive Officer, Danny Broad, said it is a significant day for the rail industry to build momentum for a National Rail Industry Plan.

“The rail industry makes a significant contribution to the Australian economy. Investment in rail by Australian Governments will be in the order of $100 billion through to 2030. We are meeting with Commonwealth Ministers to say – we need a plan to coordinate this effort and we need your support,” Mr Broad said.

“Through better coordination and long-term certainty, we can ensure the industry is well positioned to take advantage of all the lessons from the past and position ourselves for the future.”

The emphasis of any National Rail Industry Plan will need to include five key areas of focus, including:

  1. Recognising the importance of rail for Australia’s infrastructure development, urban planning and freight movements
  1. Harmonising standards, minimising regulations and maximising economies of scale
  1. Growing the capabilities of individuals and companies
  1. Maximising opportunities for rail companies
  1. Fostering innovation, research and development

Mr Chester said rail was a core component of the Australian Government’s $75 billion infrastructure investment program, including a $20 million commitment to examine faster rail.

“Through the 2017-18 Budget, the Australian Government committed $20 billion toward the delivery of rail projects, including the $10 billion National Rail Program, and the $8.4 billion Inland Rail,” Mr Chester said.

“This significant investment will not only support freight operators and commuters, but also directly invest in the rail industry by providing high-quality – and road competitive – rail links.

“Industry engagement will continue to play an important role in ensuring we get the policy and investment settings right.”

Mr Chester said supporting the rail industry, including investing in major projects, had the potential to boost national prosperity.

“The Turnbull-Joyce Government’s Inland Rail will deliver 16,000 direct and indirect jobs at the peak of construction,” Mr Chester said.

“It will stimulate complementary private sector investments, such as fleet upgrades, new metropolitan and regional terminals, and integrated freight precincts.

“I am looking forward to seeing the roll-out of the National Rail Program and projects like Inland Rail, Perth Metronet and the Victorian Regional Rail Package.”

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