Coalition’s road frenzy forgets rail’s role in moving Australia’s freight

Source: Australasian Railway Association (ARA) - www.ara.net.au 

15 May 2014

The peak industry body for rail in Australia has welcomed the Federal Government’s budget announcement to invest $39billion into infrastructure, but has expressed utter disbelief over the drastic decrease of almost 70 per cent in funding for rail over the next four years.

Chief Executive Officer of the Australasian Railway Association (ARA), Bryan Nye OAM, said that though he welcomed the $2.7billion for rail, it was a mere drop in the ocean compared to the $26.8billion for roads in the forward estimates and that the future for federal funding for rail was looking bleak.

“This Budget is a reflection of the Federal Coalition Government’s attitude towards infrastructure funding, which unfortunately is roads, roads and more roads,” said Mr Nye.

“This Budget has shown a drastic decrease in planned funding for rail transport over the next four years, with the federal government’s investment in rail decreasing by 42 per cent come 2015 and almost 70 per cent come 2018.

“Mr Abbott announced pre-election that he wanted to be known as the ‘Infrastructure PM’, however roads are but one part of Australia’s transport infrastructure. Without restoring the balance and investing in rail Mr Abbott is jeopardising the future of Australia’s economic wellbeing.

“Without federal funding, the onus is now heavily placed on the states to invest in rail. I am hoping that the states take on this crucial infrastructure responsibility and are assisted by federal government through established schemes like the Asset Recycling Fund,” he said.

Amongst the $39billion dollars announced for infrastructure investment in the forward estimates, the ARA was pleased to see some money remain for rail, namely $300million allocated to the Inland Rail project; $50million to the Advanced Train Management System technology; and $75 million for the next stage of upgrades to the Port Botany Rail Line in Sydney. However, out of these few announcements no new money has been allocated on new projects for rail.

“Whilst we welcome the few announcements for rail in this budget, it is bitter sweet, as they represent no new dollars and only a fraction of the $39billion dollars announced for infrastructure in total.

“Inland Rail for example needs $4.5billion to be completed by 2026, a deadline the Coalition has committed to meet. However, all they have announced is re-allocation of already committed dollars which falls far too short of the required amount to progress this nation building project.

“This budget is a clear reflection of the federal government’s lack of interest in supporting rail – an industry that is the sixth largest in the world; moves almost 1 billion tonnes of freight and 784 million people every year; and has carried the nation’s economy on its back for the past 180 years,” Mr Nye concluded.

 

Contact

Alicia Hewitt +61 2 6270 4531 +61 431 631 047 ahewitt@ara.net.au

 

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