Australia: ARA Welcomes Labor Party Policy on ‘National Rail Plan’

The CEO of the Australasian Railway Association (ARA), Danny Broad, has welcomed the announcement by the Australian Labor Party (ALP) that, if it forms a government at the next federal election, it would invest almost $6 million in a National Rail Plan. The plan encompasses initiatives which the ARA has already called for: principally the formulation of a Office of National Rail Industry Coordination to liaise between government and industry, which would involve the Council of Australian Governments in aligning federal and state objectives.

Broad noted that the plan incorporated the recommendations of a Senate Inquiry into the country’s rail industry and was similar to the National Rail Industry Plan published by the ARA in 2017. He claimed that their plan had received ‘wide support’ but this was the first indication that a similar scheme might be backed by federal funds. The ARA hopes that the ruling coalition government will endorse Labor’s proposals.

The Australian Labor Party wants to implement a National Rail Plan
Sydney Central Station, Hugh Llewelyn (Licence)

The plan also includes a National Rail Procurement and Manufacturing Strategy, which, according to the ALP, envisions that

“Commonwealth grant funding for rail infrastructure projects will be linked to objectives such as work being undertaken in Australia rather than commissioning overseas companies, and cooperation between jurisdictions on procurement”.

In his own remarks Broad said:

“There is no better time to explore opportunities for local suppliers and contractors to engage with freight and passenger operators. Urgent action is needed to assess the extent of emerging skill gaps and take corrective action through ‘fit-for-purpose’ training.”

The 2018–19 federal budget is due for release on 8 May, so the prospects of any of the policies advanced by the ARA and the Labor Party becoming a reality before the next federal election, at some point between 4 August 2018 and 18 May 2019 will become clear in the imminent future.

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