The Australasian Railway Association has outlined three key areas it wants to see addressed in tonight’s Federal Budget.
Last year’s Budget was widely perceived as a horror show for rail.
ARA interim chairman Bob Herbert says he’s disappointed rail has not featured prominently on the Government’s policy agenda over the past year, and says it’s imperative to the rail industry that certain priorities be pursued in future budgets.
“We’ve outlined to Government the importance of creating jobs and economic growth from continued investment in critical rail infrastructure and services throughout Australia,” Herbert said on Friday.
The ARA has put together the rail industry’s wish list for the Budget, dividing it into three key areas which need Federal attention.
- Inland Rail, and strengthening freight networks
ARA argues the single most important rail project in this Budget cycle and the next is the Inland Rail project. The 1700km-long rail line, which would connect Brisbane to Melbourne via a number of inland regions, would provide Australia’s transport system with a modern, road-competitive rail corridor, the industry lobby says.
Herbert last week called Inland Rail “a critical piece of rail infrastructure … enhancing freight movement along Australia’s east coast”.
The ARA is calling for certainty on the project’s future through a clear and significant funding commitment across the Forward Estimates from the 2016/17 Budget.
It also wants a clearer implementation timeframe and a spending commitment for the existing $300 million toward detailed planning, land acquisition, community consultation and exploration of regional freight rail links.
Commencement of works should take place by late this year, and the project should be complete by 2026, the association said.
- Investment in major urban rail projects
It’s perhaps the most talked-about aspect of State and Federal Budget balance in recent memory: the Abbott Government does not want to fund urban rail projects, instead funding roads so the states can handle rail in cities.
The ARA is not ready to give up on asking Abbott to change his mind, however.
“State governments cannot be expected to solely foot the bill for passenger rail infrastructure needs of our cities,” Herbert argued.
“Their future productivity and liveability depends on Federal Government investment in an integrated transport system.
“This investment will meet the challenges of rising traffic congestion, increasing costs of living and growing carbon emissions in Australia’s cities.”
The ARA is calling for the Federal Government to co-fund several light and heavy passenger rail projects with state and local governments, including Melbourne Metro Rail, and Brisbane’s Cross River Tunnel project.
The association also wants the continued use of asset recycling, such as on the Capital Metro light rail project in Canberra.
- Supporting Australian manufacturing, contracting and supply
“Our final platform focusses on the priorities of the suppliers, manufacturers and contractors of the rail industry, who need support from the Federal Government through programs that help to foster innovation and job creation in our local rail sector and assist with forming alliances, partnerships, joint ventures and the like,” Herbert said.
With 110,000 jobs created by the rail industry in Australia, and 16,000 of those in the manufacturing sector, the ARA believes the Federal Government should do more work to provide programs to support innovation and job creation in the sector.
Specifically, the ARA wants to see programs identified which benefit rail’s small to medium enterprises, including programs that address pre-qualification requirements and assistance with forming alliances, partnerships, joint ventures and more.
The ARA also wants the Government to support the standardisation and simplification of the regulatory framework for both passenger and freight networks under a single national rail regulatory body.
“The rail industry eagerly awaits this year’s Federal Budget announcement and look forward to progressing these important priorities to ensure a stronger future for rail,” Herbert concluded.
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