ARA's budget disappointment

THE Australasian Railway Association has expressed its disappointment and concern with the federal budget, with the body fearing that rail projects have been subordinated to road works.

Staff Reporter

Interim chairman Bob Herbert said that rail was “swiftly approaching a funding cliff” and worried that rail infrastructure projects would move to the back of policymakers’ minds.

“Federal contributions to state government rail projects have effectively halved between this budget and the last, making up less than 5% of the $8.6 billion infrastructure spend in 2015-16,” Herbert said.

“This situation will not improve over the forward estimates without sustained future co-investment in urban rail, with federal funding of urban rail projects going over the cliff from $514 million in 2014-15 to only $17 million in 2018-19.

“Australia as a nation is facing increasingly serious economic, social and environmental problems with traffic congestion clogging our roads, transport emissions choking our urban environment, fluctuating fuel prices and the continued growth of our major cities.

“The federal government’s continued approach of prioritising roads over rail will not address the long term transport needs of our growing cities.”

A further concern for the ARA is that funds formerly allocated to rail projects have been co-opted for road improvements.

“We are seeing money earmarked for rail projects, such as the $187.5 million savings from the successful delivery of Regional Rail Link, being allocated to improving highway infrastructure that directly competes with Victoria’s regional rail system,” Herbert said.

“The federal government has also re-committed $300 million of existing funds for pre-construction works on the Inland Rail.

“We are hoping for a stronger, clearer and more significant long-term funding commitment to Inland Rail from the 2016/17 budget.”