Appointments, Operations & Maintenance, Rollingstock & Manufacturing

Advocate appointed for rail manufacturing

rail advocate

The Federal Government has appointed Jacqui Walters to the role of National Rail Manufacturing Advocate and eight leading experts to the Rail Industry Innovation Council.

Assistant manufacturing minister Tim Ayres – who declared the intention to seek an advocate last year – said the appointments were critical to the National Rail Manufacturing Plan, which aims to deliver a national strategy for the domestic manufacture of high-quality, low- emissions passenger trains.

“Rebuilding rail manufacturing in Australia will have spillover economic benefits, particularly for regional communities like Newcastle, Maryborough, Ballarat, Bendigo and Dandenong where we will back secure, blue-collar jobs,” he said.

Jacqui Walters.

Walters has a track record of successfully leading strategy and change projects across Commonwealth, state and territory governments.

“As a former Chair of the Citytrain Response Unit, which has oversight of the transformation of public transport in Queensland, Ms Walters will bring a wealth of experience in the rail sector to the role,” Ayres said.

“Her leadership experience in the transport sector is complemented by her background in renewable energy and venture capital funding.

“She will lead Commonwealth coordination of state and territory procurement of rail rolling stock, helping Australian manufacturers to be competitive in export markets in regional and global supply chains.”

Bringing significant expertise from the rail industry, the Council members are:

  • Graham Bentley (Aurecon)
  • Danny Broad (Australasian Railway Association)
  • Vicki Brown (UTS Transport Research Centre Advisory Board)
  • Samantha McWilliam (WSP Australia)
  • Rachel Nolan (former Queensland Minister for Transport)
  • Professor Ravi Ravitharan (Monash Institute of Railway Technology)
  • Katarzyna Stapleton (Queensland Rail)
  • Glenn Thompson (Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union).

As part of the plan, the Government will deliver the National Rail Procurement and Manufacturing Strategy by the end of the year.

“Australians can make the trains of the future, building long-term industrial capability as well as exporting those products to markets in regional and global supply chains,” Ayres said.

“When state governments procure passenger rail projects offshore, it costs thousands of good blue-collar jobs in the regions and trashes Australia’s manufacturing capability.

“The Federal Government is determined to reverse that and deliver more good manufacturing jobs in our regions and outer suburbs.

“I look forward to working with the rail advocate and the Council members to implement the Government’s vision of supporting thousands of skilled manufacturing jobs and ensuring more of our rail passenger fleets are built in Australia.

“As Advocate, she will work with state and territory governments and stakeholders to pursue a national approach that provides increased opportunities for local businesses and creates more local jobs, particularly in regional Australia.”

Walters said she strongly believed there was a future for Australia to become a high-value manufacturing nation.

“Working together we have the opportunity to improve competitiveness, innovation, and growth within the rail manufacturing industry,” she said.

The Australasian Railway Association (ARA) said ARA-funded research, released by the Federal Government last year, showed that a coordinated national approach to rail procurement and manufacturing would have saved $1.85 billion over the past 10 years.

Separate ARA research also confirmed the current uncoordinated approach to type approval processes by procurers is costing the rail industry $230 million per year.

ARA chief executive Caroline Wilkie said the ARA had worked closely with the Office of National Rail Industry Coordination since it was formed last year, advocating strongly for better harmonisation across jurisdictions.

“It is encouraging to see the Federal Government act on the decades-long lack of harmonisation across the country’s rail networks that has hampered competitiveness, significantly increasing costs and constraining investment,” she said.

“The industry urgently needs a centralised approach to procurement to drive productivity and innovation if we are to meet the challenge of a $154 billion pipeline over the next 15 years.

“The current state-based local content policies are akin to operating in different countries and have led to duplication of facilities and made it hard for some organisations to bid for key contracts.

“A transparent, long-term and coordinated strategy will be critical to support a sustainable industry and enable increased investment through certainty.”

ARA chair Danny Broad, who was appointed as a Council member, said the announcement was the first step towards developing safe, sustainable rail and will foster research and development and boost skills and capabilities in the sector.

“It will improve government supply and export opportunities for local businesses and improve competitiveness overall,” he said.

“The ARA looks forward to the delivery of the National Rail Manufacturing Plan to support industry productivity and facilitate opportunities for Australian manufacturers.”