Shadow minister for infrastructure, transport, cities and tourism Anthony Albanese has urged the rail industry to demand more from the federal government.
“Rail is underutilised in this country,” the former deputy prime minister said on day three of the AusRAIL conference in Melbourne. “There’s much more we can do.
“The former prime minister [Tony Abbott] made the extraordinary statement that there is no role for the federal government in funding urban transport.
“I believe the former prime minister’s position on urban rail was one of the key elements that added the term ‘former’ to his title.”
Albanese said recent moves toward funding transport by the Turnbull Ministry were “pretty good,” but said more spending, and more direct policy making, would be “really good”.
“I call on the government to not just ride on rail, but to fund rail,” he said. “There’s been more than a 20% decline in spending on infrastructure [during the Coalition’s current term].
“One thing that I learnt as both an infrastructure minister, but also as someone who lives in the largest city in Australia … it’s almost certain that every rail project that is proposed, will have actual passenger figures that are higher than forecast.
“It’s also the case that I can’t think of a new toll-road where the actual number of cars meets what the forecasts were prior to construction being approved.
“There’s a bit of a pattern. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist or a statistician.”
After his morning address, Albanese toured the AusRAIL exhibition, and took a turn on Alstom’s light rail simulator. Photo: Alstom
Albanese referenced the cancelled East West Link, and its 45-cents-to-the-dollar benefit-cost ratio as projected by Infrastructure Australia.
“I reckon if I went to every one of the exhibitors here [at AusRAIL] and made then an offer, ‘If you invest $100, I guarantee you’ll get $45 back,’ I doubt I would be run over by a stampede of demand.”
The Opposition minister zoned in on the need for a rail line to the planned second Sydney airport at Badgerys Creek.
“When people arrive in a state, they tend not to bring their car on the plane,” he said.
“You should not have an airport there without access to public transport there from day one. Even if the airport wasn’t there, it would make sense for Western Sydney.
“But there’s a bit of a stand-off between the federal government and the state government over who’s going to fund it.”
Albanese concluded his address by calling for coordination between states and territories when it comes to transport project, a plan which he said would help stabilise the manufacturing sector.
“We can’t as a nation put all our eggs in the finance sector and the white collar workforce,” he said. “We do very well in certain sectors of transport … but we should be doing much more when it comes to manufacturing of rail.”