Australasian Railway Association welcomes fast rail funding
A proposed fast rail line between Geelong and Melbourne has received a significant investment from the Australian government.
Australasian Railway Association (ARA) CEO, Danny Broad, has welcomed the announcement by the Prime Minister that $2 billion will be allocated for fast rail between Geelong and Melbourne, and $40 million for detailed assessments of five additional fast rail corridors.
Danny said: “Fast rail reduces travelling times, facilitating decentralisation of major cities, and revitalising regional centres through effective integrated transport options. It allows commuting like never before. Other key benefits include easing of road congestion, and the reduction of road maintenance costs, carbon and other polluting emissions.”
Alongside the Melbourne-Geelong fast rail and the five new corridors, $14.5 million has been allocated for the establishment of a National Fast Rail Agency to provide advice to the government on fast rail initiatives and business cases.
Danny hailed the commitment to create a National Fast Rail Agency to guide the projects, determine priorities, examine financing options and work with communities.
“With the Federal Opposition’s policy for a High Speed Rail Planning Authority, we appear to have bipartisan support for a national agency dedicated to long-term planning of faster rail initiatives. This is a welcome development,” he said. “Rail projects in Australia have historically been in the province of state governments, resulting in a disjointed and uncoordinated approach to rail investment and decision-making. The difference in rail gauges today is typical of some of our challenges.
“A National Agency will allow long-term planning and corridor acquisition that can work towards fast rail and high-speed rail being realised in Australia.
“Significant rail infrastructure needs long-term planning and robust economic and technical assessment that extends beyond the political cycle. We are beginning to see this bearing fruit.
“Governments around the country have already committed to over $100 billion of rail projects nationally over the next 10 years, consisting of city metros, light rail and Inland Rail. These announcements complement existing rail investments.”
The spending highlights include $2 billion from 2021-22 for fast rail between Melbourne and Geelong; $14.5 million over the forward estimates for the establishment of a National Fast Rail Agency to provide advice to the government on fast rail, and lead the development of business cases; $40 million over the forward estimates for strategic business cases to identify and prioritise upgrades for five new corridors: Sydney to Wollongong, Sydney to Parkes (via Bathurst and Orange), Melbourne to Albury Wodonga, Melbourne to Traralgon, and Brisbane to the Gold Coast; $3.5 billion for the first stage of Western Sydney North South rail link; $700 million (stages 2/3) for the South Geelong to Warun Ponds Rail Upgrade; and $44 million for strategic business cases to identify and prioritise upgrades to improve the standard of regional rail networks that connect economic centres with the Australian Rail Track Corporation’s network.
However, Danny warned that the Australian, state and territory governments need to address critical skilled labour shortages impacting rail construction, operations and maintenance.
“Just as we need leadership in committing to high-value projects, we need leadership to reform our approach to rail education and training to provide the workforce to build and operate these systems,” he concluded. “Given that a peak hour Sydney train can replace 800 cars and a freight train can replace 110 trucks, I would also have liked to have seen more rail to deal with urban congestion.”