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Federal Government welcomes private sector view on rail's future.

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Media Release

John Anderson

Minister for Transport

and Regional Services


31 May 1999





The Federal Minister for Transport and Regional Services, John Anderson, today released the pri vate sector Rail Projects Taskforce report into the future direction of Australia’s rail sector.


The Taskforce was initiated by the Prime Minister and was headed by Jack Smorgon, Chairman of the Committee for Melbourne and former chairman of the now privatised Australian National Railways.


Mr Anderson thanked the Taskforce, comprising industry, investment and local government representatives, for presenting their views on what needs to be done to revitalise rail in Australia.


“The Rail Projects Taskforce has made a major contribution towards solving a problem of national significance,” he said.


“Its conclusions and recommendations are useful additions to the existing body of advice on government policy settings for rail and the land transport sector generally.”


The Minister noted the similarities between the Taskforce report, last year’s parliamentary Neville Report “Tracking Australia” and the recent draft report on rail from the Productivity Commission.


“The Government is reviewing its land transport policy settings and will respond to the three reports jointly following the release of the final Productivity Commission report.


“All these reports largely agree on the broad approach governments should take towards rail reform and the ultimate end game. However, they differ on what governments should do to get there.


“When the Productivity Commission’s report is completed in August 1999, the Commonwealth, the States — as well as the private sector — will be well placed to determine their respective roles in revitalising rail.”


The report, Revitalising Rail: The Private Sector Solution contains 30 detailed recommendations to remove barriers to an effective national rail service:


·  a framework for assessing the allocation of government funds for road and rail projects be developed on the basis of each mode’s relative efficiencies;


·  a very high speed train network should be assessed as part of a National Transport Strategy;


·  a single, national, rail safety regulator as part of a national approach to rail regulation;


·  a stronger Australian Rail Track Corporation to control, manage and maintain the national mainline network rather than just provide a ‘one stop shop’ for access to a network still partially under State control;


·  additional Commonwealth spending to upgrade the national interstate rail track by June 2002.


One key recommendation has already been addressed as a part of last week’s agreement on tax reform. The rail industry will be treated as an off-road use of diesel, taking the effective ra te of excise on diesel used in fuel operations to zero. This will be worth $160 million a year to the rail industry.


The Taskforce considered that rail could be an important component of an efficient transport system, but had been held back by years of government mismanagement. It was critical about the ability of governments to work together in the national interest and of governments adopting an ad hoc and State-based approach to major rail infrastructure proposals.


Mr Anderson supported the Taskforce f indings, saying that inter-governmental brinkmanship and crude attempts at cost shifting had shackled rail to a 1 19th Century parochial structure. “It is steam loco thinking for the very high speed train era. We must end the madness.”


“Australia can’t afford six separate railways operating under the same mindset that gave us the tragedy of different gauges. We must have an efficient national railway, fully integrated and focussed firmly on customer requirements.”


Mr Anderson said the Commonwealth had a national leadership role to play in rail, including accelerating reform, development of a national rail safety regime and facilitation of further private sector investment in rolling stock and services. However, it required the full cooperation of the States to achieve its goal.


“Many of the barriers to private investment in rail relate directly to the practices of State Government agencies. These barriers must be removed if the nation is to get full value from the $250 million Federal investment in the interstate rail network.”


Rail Projects Taskforce


Jack Smorgon AM (Chairman), Chairman, Peter McGregor, Director, J.B. Were

Committee for Melbourne Corporate Service


Rod McGeoch, Chairman, Committee for Ron Finlay, Principal, Finlay Consulting



John White, Chairman, SECA  John Morschel, Chairman, Comalco


Denis Byrne, Principal, Denis Byrne and James Treloar, Mayor of Tamworth



For copies, contact: Taskforce Secretariat

c/- Dept of Transport and Regional Development


02 62747510 FAX:0 2 62747281



Media Contact: Paul Chamberlin 02 62777680 / 0419 233989



jk  1999-06-01  12:44