Heavier and Faster Freight Trains Good for the Community, Good for the Environment

Media Information - 21 October 2001

"Heavier and Faster Freight Trains Good for the Community, Good for the Environment!"

The Railway Technical Society Australasia (RTSA) is challenging all sides of Federal politics to commit to funding much needed upgrades for the interstate rail network, which will allow the operation of heavier and faster freight trains. An Audit of the network was conducted earlier this year under the auspices of the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) at the request of the Federal Minister for Transport. The Track Audit concluded that there were significant community and environmental benefits to be gained  from investing in the interstate rail network.

The Track Audit indicated that the interstate rail network has been underfunded in recent years by at least $507 million. It confirmed similar findings of a number of earlier Government sponsored inquiries that major investment is needed to bring the interstate rail network closer to world class standards. RTSA spokesman Dr Philip Laird said, "Our rail networks play a vital role in moving freight and passengers in this country. Despite the inherent environmental and community benefits of rail transport, for years governments have taken rail for granted and have neglected our rail infrastructure." Dr Laird continued, "The benefit cost ratio for the Track Audit 'basic track pack' at 3.2 is higher than the average National Highway System project benefit cost ratio of 2.5." "When you consider the backlog of track upgrading and that the investment we are calling for is one-tenth of the amount that the Howard Government has spent on roads over the last three years, there can be no further excuses for not committing to these recommendations." Dr Laird said, "A good start would be to allocate part of the proceeds from the sale of National Rail and FreightCorp to funding the Track Audit proposals." "As an added bonus, major track upgrading also has the potential to facilitate the introduction of high-speed passenger tilt trains in New South Wales, similar to the outstandingly successful Queensland tilt train." Dr Laird concluded, "Faster and heavier freight trains are good for the community and good for the environment. The Track Audit provides a clear and affordable solution to fixing the interstate rail network. It's time to get Australia's railways Back onTrack."

Backgrounder - Interstate Rail Track Audit

If present trends continue, Australia's domestic freight task is set to double by 2020. We urgently need an alternative to theendless procession of heavy trucks that are clogging up our roads. The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) Track Audit concluded  that an investment of $507 million would return substantial benefits to the community.

These include:

$1.5 billion in savings through reduced freight costs, fewer road crashes and reduced wear and tear on our roads
A reduction of 96,000 tonnes per annum in greenhouse gases
Over 2 million tonnes of freight transferred from road to rail
128,000 fewer truck journeys on interstate highways
The creation of jobs in rural and regional Australia.

The Railway Technical Society of Australasia (RTSA) is seeking bipartisan support and commitment to funding the work identified in the ARTC Track Audit. In conjunction with the sale of National Rail and FreightCorp, the Commonwealth, NSW and Victorian governments have stated that they will work to develop an efficient, competitive and viable domestic freight transport industry and recognise the inherent environmental benefits of rail transport. Much of the proposed investment would be used to improve reliability and reduce transit times for freight trains between Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. Track upgrading between Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth has already seen rail consistently outperform road transport, with rail winning 78% of share of the land transport freight market. The back log of works on the East Coast route include track upgrades, new signalling to replace outmoded systems and replacement of the 19th Century rail bridge over the Murrumbidgee River which now has a 20 km per hour speed restriction for all trains. There is widespread support for this investment package within the transport industry and independent surveys conducted on behalf of the Australasian Railway Association indicate that the vast majority of voters support additional spending on rail infrastructure.

For a PDF file or hard copy of the RTSA Brochure 'Getting Rail Back on Track'e-mail: grms@bigpond.com

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

The Railway Technical Society of Australasia (RTSA) is a technical society of the Institution of Engineers, Australia. RTSA promotes the science and practice of railway engineering and related technology through biennial railway engineering conferences, study tours, the publication of technical papers and the support of research and education within the rail industry.

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