Labor has announced that if elected it will create a National Rail Plan, with close to $6 million in forward estimates going towards the plan.

Leader of the Labor Party, Bill Shorten, said the strategy would implement a national rail innovation council, as well as other initiatives to help small businesses along the supply chain bid for work.

“A Labor Government, if we are elected, will make sure that the states and territories of this nation when they are expanding taxpayer money actually have to buy and are encouraged to buy Australia made and to factor in Australian manufacturing and Australian trades people in their long term-decisions,” Mr Shorten said.

Australasian Railway Association (ARA) CEO, Danny Broad welcomed the plan and said it was “the first sum of money” they had seen committed from a political party to a national rail plan.

“We would welcome bipartisan support for such a plan in the national interest,” Mr Broad said.

“Labor’s Plan for Rail goes to the key recommendations of the recent Senate Inquiry into the state of Australia’s rail industry and how government procurement can improve the value for money, competitiveness, stability of work and capability of the rail manufacturing industry.

“In many respects Labor’s Plan for Rail parallels the components of the ARA’s National Rail Industry Plan released in September 2017 at a Ministerial Roundtable comprising Minister’s Chester, Sinodinos and Fletcher.”

Mr Broad said there has been wide support for the plan.

“Labor’s Rail Plan embraces many of the key elements ARA has been actively advocating for, including involvement of COAG and a coordination group to engage government and the rail industry in progressing implementation,” Mr Broad said.

“This approach to coordination of effort makes a lot of sense with such massive investments in rail by most Government jurisdictions.

“There is no better time to explore opportunities for local suppliers and contractors to engage with freight and passenger operators. This augers well for jobs and growth in a key industry sector.

“Urgent action is needed to assess the extent of emerging skill gaps and take corrective action through ‘fit-for-purpose’ training.

“Technological change is sweeping through our industry. This must be supported by a strong commitment to innovation — an approach strongly supported in Labor’s announcement.” 

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