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ARA slams Budget

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The Australasian Railway Association has warned rail could soon face a “funding cliff,” as the 2015/16 Federal Budget found no new money for urban rail.

The ARA expressed disappointment in Tuesday’s Budget, with “the lion’s share of transport infrastructure funding to go toward roads, and no new money for the important rail infrastructure needs of the country’s biggest cities”.

ARA interim chairman Bob Herbert said rail was swiftly approaching a funding cliff that would see key integrated rail infrastructure projects fall off the policy agendas of our biggest and fastest growing cities.

“Federal contributions to state government rail projects have effectively halved between this budget and the last, making up less than 5% of the $8.6 billion infrastructure spend in 2015/16,” Herbert observed.

“This situation will not improve over the forward estimates without sustained future co-investment in urban rail, with Federal funding of urban rail projects going over the cliff from $514 million in 2014/15 to only $17 million in 2018/19.

“Australia as a nation is facing increasingly serious economic, social and environmental problems with traffic congestion clogging our roads, transport emissions choking our urban environment, fluctuating fuel prices and the continued growth of our major cities.

“The Federal Government’s continued approach of prioritising roads over rail will not address the long term transport needs of our growing cities,” he said.

In stark contrast to his approach to rail, Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s commitments to roads were made clear in this Budget, the ARA stated, with around two -thirds of the $8.6 billion in Federal Government transport infrastructure spend going on roads, compared to just one-eighth being spent on rail.

Herbert expressed further disappointment in the fact some of the money helping to build new road infrastructure was in fact coming from rail.

“We are seeing money earmarked for rail projects, such as the $187.5 million savings from the successful delivery of Regional Rail Link, being allocated to improving highway infrastructure that directly competes with Victoria’s regional rail system,” Herbert said.

“Decisions such as these are disincentives for the rail industry and its constructors and suppliers to work efficiently and effectively.”

Herbert was also disappointed by the Government’s limited action so far on Inland Rail.

“We are hoping for a stronger, clearer and more significant long-term funding commitment to Inland Rail from the 2016/17 Budget,” he said.

“The ARA is determined to pursue its priorities through working with both Federal and State Governments to ensure the nation and its cities receive the rail infrastructure needed for the future.”