Rail building back better: AusRAIL Day 1

Day one of AusRAIL has heard how the rail industry will be able to support economies to regrow after the COVID-19 pandemic and improve future mobility for people and goods in cities and regions.

Beginning the first day of AusRAIL 2020 was the address from the Deputy Prime Minister and Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack, who highlighted the pipeline of work that the rail industry has ahead of itself.

These include the recent funding announcements for Geelong Fast Rail and the Melbourne Airport Rail Link, as well as ongoing funding for passenger projects such as Sydney Metro – Western Sydney Airport, and Metronet and freight projects including the Murray Basin Rail project, Port Botany rail duplication, and upgrades to Tasmania’s rail freight network.

“Infrastructure delivers jobs now and productivity in the long term,” said McCormack.

Across each of these, and the major federal project Inland Rail, McCormack noted the public-private nature of the rail industry, with public funding supporting delivery by private contractors and the extended supply chain across regional areas. With this pipeline and approach to partnering with industry, McCoramck saw a bright future for the sector.

“We’re doing everything we can to boost freight and passenger rail,” he said.

CEO of the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) Caroline Wilkie noted that with this project pipeline, and the experience of COVID-19 there is the opportunity to improve many of the ways the rail industry operates. With international border closed, there has been a greater focus on domestic supply chains and opportunities for the local rail manufacturing businesses to increase their role.

In freight, the need for reliable efficient freight has thrown the spotlight back on the necessity of the rail freight sector.

Across all areas of the rail sector, there is the need to step up innovation int eh rail industry and remove impediments by applying nationally consistent standards and address skills shortages, said Wilkie.

Over the next year, Wilkie said the ARA would continue buildings its research base to ensure that advocacy for the growing role of rail for passenger and freight movements is backed by significant evidence.

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