Coalition called to account over rail policy

Railway Technical Society of Australasia
PO Box E303


5 November 2001 Media


A 120-year old railway bridge over the Murrumbidgee River near Wagga Wagga, which reduces interstate freight trains to a 20 km per hour crawl, will be a major impediment to any proposals for an Inland Rail Expressway according to the Railway Technical Society of Australasia (RTSA).

National Party Leader and Transport Minister John Anderson, will today visit
Goondiwindi to announce the go-ahead of the first stage of the inland railway project linking Melbourne and Brisbane. However, according to RTSA spokesman DR Philip Laird, the project will not get off the ground unless immediate and urgent attention is paid to the existing interstate rail network.

Dr Laird said, "The Railway Technical Society of Australasia (RTSA), whilst
welcoming the interest shown by the Coalition today in an inland Melbourne-Parkes-Brisbane railway, believes that this route cannot work properly until the rail bridge over the Murrumbidgee River near Wagga Wagga is replaced. "This bridge is over 120 years old, and is now subject to a 20 km per hour speed restriction. Its replacement was given the highest priority by the government's own National Track Audit released in May of this year."

A new rail bridge over the Murrumbidgee River would also allow for double
stacked container operation over much of the inland route. Other top priority works in the government's Track Audit investment package include the essential separation of freight and passenger trains in Sydney, and a long overdue replacement of a 70 year old signalling system between Casino and Brisbane. The delays caused by the present outmoded system costs train operators $2 million a year.

The Track Audit found that a basic package of work costing $507 million was
necessary to bring the existing interstate main lines 'up to speed' and such work should proceed whether or not an inland route proceeds. "The Coalition's neglect of the interstate rail network is now catching up with them. It has denied additional investment funds over the minimal funding promised four years ago, whilst the ALP has committed an additional $60 million, and the Democrats have committed the full $507 million.

The two
major parties should do better, and at the very least, the Coalition should match the ALP," concluded Dr Laird.

For further information contact:Dr Philip Laird on 02 4221 3421 or 0412 060 129


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