A National Rail Manufacturing Plan would be formed to ensure that federal money spent on rail projects in Australia leads to local manufacturing of rollingstock if Labor was elected federally.
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese used his budget reply speech to announce the plan, which could identify and optimise the opportunities to build freight and passenger trains in Australia.
Included in the plan are measures such as the establishment of an Office of National Rail industry Coordination (ONRIC) to audit the adequacy, capacity, and condition of passenger trains and develop priority plans. Labor would also reinstate the Rail Supplier Advocate to help small to medium sized enterprises find national and export opportunities and create a Rail Industry Innovation Council to spur more local research & development.
Labor estimates that the plan would create up to 659 full-time jobs, and boost Australia’s GDP by up to $5 billion.
Australasian Railway Association (ARA) CEO Caroline Wilkie said a coordinated approach to rail manufacturing would help local industry and governments.
“Rail manufacturers currently have to navigate a very fragmented market to address different approaches between state and territories,” Wilkie said.
“This severely limits the industry’s ability to gain the scale it needs to create efficiencies and foster more innovation in the Australian market.
“Policies that support a strong Australian rail manufacturing sector will ultimately lead to better deals for governments and create more jobs in the process.”
Local manufacturers of rollingstock also reacted positively to the Labor plan. Todd Garvey, Head of Sales Australia and New Zealand at Bombardier Transportation said that coordination would ensure that Australia’s rail manufacturing industry continues to thrive.
“Bombardier was encouraged by the focus on our industry in the budget reply speech by the Opposition Leader on October 8. In particular, the establishment of the ONRIC within the Department of Industry and the commitment to ‘manufacturing trains here’ in Australia.”
Garvey noted that Bombardier’s factory in Dandenong builds trains and trams not only for Victoria, but other states including South Australia.
The ARA has been pushing for consistency across state governments in rollingstock and signalling tenders to better leverage existing local capabilities.
Around Australia, the rollingstock manufacturing and repair industry generates $2.4bn and employs over 4,000 people, half outside metropolitan areas. Garvey highlighted that Bombardier’s presence in south east Melbourne supports a wider manufacturing ecosystem.
“In Dandenong we employ over 200 manufacturing workers and support a vibrant rail supply chain in south east Melbourne. This supply chain supports our carriage building, welding and fit out for our trams and trains. This is important, our local content on the VLocity trains is 69 per cent and around 55 per cent for our E-Class trams. Not only this but in Victoria alone we have a significant servicing and maintenance business operating out of West Melbourne, Geelong and Ballarat East.”
Wilkie said that a focus on innovation now would set up Australia’s rail manufacturing industry for the future.
“Investment in R&D and innovation leads to a better infrastructure network for Australians and improved efficiencies for industry,” she said.
“Government and industry must work together to advance rail technology and innovation adoption, based on clear policy settings that provide the certainty needed for long term investment.”
Garvey said that in Bombardier’s case, local manufacturing was building a skills base for quality Australian manufacturing.
“Bombardier is committed to building rail cars in Australia. Not only are we committed to this industry but also to the next generation. We have apprentices at Dandenong and a commitment to diversity. Our on-site welding school is testament to this fact and we will not stop making trains and trams to the highest quality Australian standards.”