Rail industry reacts to budget announcements

The Federal Budget 2018/19 will provide $7.9 billion for a number of national rail infrastructure projects, with key players in the rail industry welcoming the funding boost.

The Budget will invest in new major rail and public transport infrastructure including:

  • Up to $5 billion for construction of a rail link to the Melbourne Airport
  • $1.1 billion towards further components of Perth’s METRONET program
  • $400 million to duplicate a section of the Port Botany Rail Line and construct the Cabramatta passing loop
  • $390 million for the upgrade of the Beerburrum to Nambour Line on the Sunshine Coast
  • $300 million for the Brisbane Metro project
  • $220 million for the electrification of the Gawler Line in northern Adelaide

The Australian Logistics Council (ALC) welcomed the key freight infrastructure investments in the Budget, which it says will help lay the groundwork for smooth implementation of the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy.

“ALC is particularly pleased by the commitment of $400 million for the duplication of the freight rail line at Port Botany, as called for in ALC’s 2018-19 Commonwealth Budget Submission,” ALC Managing Director, Michael Kilgariff, said.

“ALC also welcomes the investment being made in Queensland’s North Coast Rail Line, which will help assist freight rail efficiency in that state.

“Urban road congestion is not just an irritation for commuters in Australia’s major cities, but it has an enormous impact on the efficiency and cost of road freight movement.

“Accordingly, the expansion of the Urban Congestion Fund to tackle this problem across all capital cities is an enormously welcome step, as are the investments to upgrade key freight routes through the $3.5 billion Roads of Strategic Importance initiative.”

However, Mr Kilgariff, said, “ALC regrets that the Government has not taken the opportunity to establish a dedicated Freight Strategy and Planning Division within the Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities. Such a body is essential to ensure that the movement of freight is effectively monitored, analysed and prioritised in policy-making.

“ALC also notes the Budget contains $5 million over four years to assist in the implementation of the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy. This is a positive step, which will hopefully promote close government engagement with industry participants throughout the implementation phase of the Strategy.”

The Australasian Railway Association (ARA) said the announcements were a significant boost to the rail sector.

“The ARA acknowledges the Government’s commitment to both passenger and freight rail in our cities and in our regions, enhancing our national and local economies, providing greater job opportunities for Australians and improving liveability in our cities,” ARA CEO, Danny Broad, said.

However, Mr Broad said the announcements don’t come without challenges.

“With this significant pipeline of work over the next decade, it is imperative that Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments work collaboratively with industry to identify the long-term labour skills required, ensuring training methodologies are leading edge, as well as enhancing traineeship and apprenticeship opportunities and capabilities. This is exactly what we have been advocating for since September 2017 in our National Rail Industry Plan.

“If we do not get this right and invest now in the skills needed tomorrow, we will be putting the cart before the horse, resulting in projects not being delivered on time, delays and congestion to our networks – ultimately not solving the problems we are there to fix.”

Mr Broad said many would benefit from what these announcements mean for the movement of people and freight.

“The ARA welcomes $400 million injected to ease congestion around Sydney Airport through the duplication of tracks on the line to Port Botany. Every single additional train with containers along this rail line will take 50 trucks off the road, creating 150 jobs during construction.

“On the passenger rail front, $5 billion has been committed by the Commonwealth for the Melbourne Airport Rail Link, $1.1 billion for the Metronet Rail Project in Western Australia, $390 million to duplicate the North Coast Queensland line between Beerburrum and Landsborough and $220 million for the Gawler Rail Line electrification in South Australia.

“All in all this is an investment of $7.9 billion to rail in Australia, which is good for our economy, jobs and our cities.”

The Federal Government also confirmed that $59.8 million under the Tasmanian Freight Rail Revitalisation Program will be funded under the Budget, matching the State Government’s $59.8 million contribution.

TasRail Chief Executive Officer, Steven Dietrich, said this was fantastic news for TasRail, for existing and new Tasmanian industry, for local contractors and for the wider Tasmanian community.

“TasRail is so thankful to both the State and Federal Governments for recognising the importance of freight rail in Tasmania and funding the second four-year Tranche of rail infrastructure upgrades,” Mr Dietrich said.

“This funding gives certainty to our existing highly-valued customers, as well as the new customers we are currently in negotiations with, that decades of deferred rail infrastructure spend is being addressed and that TasRail will further expand its capabilities of providing innovative logistics solutions.”

Mr Dietrich said key projects in Tranche Two will include reconstructing formation and ballast, sleeper, rail and culvert replacement, as well as the upgrading of a further 35 level crossings.

“All key rail freight corridors from Hobart to Launceston to Burnie to Rosebery will benefit from this funding commitment and TasRail looks forward to working with the State and Federal Governments to deliver these critical projects on time and on budget.” 

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