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Rail opportunities in Australia green up with election result


With the Australian Greens holding the balance of power in the Senate from July 2011, the national rail market is poised for a tremendous injection of Federal Government policy and funding – especially for the renewal of public transport systems.

A spokesperson for Greens leader Bob Brown, interviewed directly for this column, confirmed that not only is the high speed rail (HSR) study for the Melbourne-
Sydney route firmly on the table, but policy has also been developed for greater investment in a national network of light rail transit (LRT) implementation in major urban systems.

These systems simply require greater public transport volumes and efficiency.

Four months ahead of the recent 2010 Federal Election, the Melbourne House of
Representatives candidate for the Greens, Adam Bandt, and Greens leader Bob Brown, launched his official campaign by backing a $10 million pre-feasibility study on an east coast HSR service between Melbourne and Sydney.

If this HSR policy is successful in creating such a service, it will be Australia’s first and bring the country up to date with a trend which is sweeping the world – one driven by the low emissions of rail and the true competitiveness of HSR versus short-haul flight routes, as is being shown in Asia and Europe.

The Australian Greens’ call was for government and industry to consider that such a 3-4 hour rail trip was a viable competitor to aviation. With approximately 121 daily flights currently taking place between Melbourne and Sydney, on one of the world’s busiest air corridors, it would appear to have a good chance of success.

At the time, despite opinion polling showing high support from the public, the Greens call for the study was criticised in the media.

Fast-track to the election result and suddenly the political landscape – and how it affects the rail industry – looks dramatically different.

In fact, one of the key points of agreements struck formally between the Australian Labour Party and the Greens in order to form minority government was the agreement “that an implementation study for High Speed Rail should be completed by July 2011” (as described in the formal agreement), this applying to the east coast route.

The Greens spokesperson said there is strong support for sustainable, public transport networks in general within party policy.

To quote directly from the Greens’ 2010 transport policy, its primary transport goal is “a comprehensive, integrated public transport system, with critical components publicly owned and controlled.” It also advocates “train services that are competitive with road transport – reliable, safe, fast and inexpensive.”

Add to this the party’s focus on climate change management and the creation of a carbon compensation policy, and the advantage for growth in rail and light rail networks shifts even further. For example, transport and environment policy outlines that “environmental costs are incorporated into the cost of air travel”.

This is an exciting time for the industry as its long-term advocacy for the benefits of a re-investment in rail which brings up to speed urban passenger and freight networks, gains traction in the houses of power.

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