AusRAIL, Market Sectors

Rail funding set to plummet

<span class="" id="parent-fieldname-description"> Government funding for urban rail projects is set to decline dramatically following the Coalition’s resounding win at Saturday’s federal election. </span> <p>If party leader – and now prime minister elect – Tony Abbott follows through on comments made prior to the election, the federal government will stop funding new urban rail projects completely from now on, leaving just the states and the private sector to work together on urban rail.</p><p>Abbott said prior to the election that a Coalition government would instead commit funds to urban road projects.</p><p>It will be a substantial shift from conditions under the Labor government, which favoured rail as perhaps its pet sector for investment.</p><p>Federal Labor under Rudd and Gillard invested more in Australia’s railways than all previous federal governments combined.</p><p>Summed up, it committed $13.6 billion to urban rail across the country, and funded projects in every mainland state.</p><p>It also drove several key changes in the regulation of rail, including the implementation of a National Rail Safety Regulator, which came into effect in January this year.</p><p>Former federal minister for infrastructure and transport, Anthony Albanese, told Rail Express prior to the election, that the Labor government committed so much funding to rail “because our cities are too important to ignore and urban rail will be essential to improving their productivity, sustainability and liveability.”</p><p>In stark contrast, leader of the Nationals and former shadow minister for infrastructure and transport, Warren Truss, said: “The Coalition supports Commonwealth funding for major transport infrastructure projects that enable interstate commerce, export industries and the productive capacity of the economy.</p><p>“While we recognise that many public transport projects are priorities in our capital cities, state and local governments have primary responsibility for urban transport.</p><p>“They are better placed to respond to the needs of the local community in terms of the operation, maintenance and expansion of urban passenger networks.”</p><p>Before the election, the Labor Party committed to funding the Melbourne Metro tunnel project ($3 billion), the completed Noarlunga to Seaford rail extension ($291 million), the Gold Coast Rapid Transit ($365 million), the Perth City Link ($236 million), Brisbane’s Moreton Bay rail link ($742 million) and Cross River Rail ($715 million), and Sydney’s Northern freight line ($840 million) and Southern freight line ($1 billion).</p><p>One project whose fate remains unclear is the proposed high-speed rail line linking Melbourne and Brisbane, via Sydney and the Gold Coast.</p><p>Federal Labor funded a comprehensive feasibility study into the network, and was already investigating ways to source the $114bn in funding it said was needed to build it.</p><p>The Coalition, meanwhile, remains relatively open to the idea.</p><p>Truss said: “While it is premature to make any commitment to commence construction at this point, as the [feasibility] study suggests, it would be prudent to ensure that future planning is advanced, particularly around proposed capital city stations, bearing in mind the detailed technical work the high speed rail study foreshadows.”</p><p>Despite responding negatively to the Coalition’s anti-urban rail funding policies prior to the election, the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) welcomed the “certainty” of Australia’s new government, in a statement released on Monday.</p><p>ARA chief executive officer, Bryan Nye, said the industry was especially pleased with the Coalition’s support of the Brisbane-Melbourne Inland Rail link – a project which received bi-partison support pre-election.</p><p>“The Inland Rail project will complete an economic missing link in our nation’s freight network,” Nye said.</p><p>“We will now also be looking for early confirmation of existing funding for a number of other rail freight projects that are crucial to meeting the nation’s growing freight tasks.”</p>