Once-in-a-generation opportunity to get Australian rail back on track
An historic agreement has been signed between Australian governments and rail industry stakeholders to bring our nation’s rail network into the 21st century.
The Australian and Victorian Governments, as well as the Australasian Railway Association on behalf of senior rail industry leaders, have signed the ground-breaking Memorandum of Cooperation to make rail more competitive and interoperable across Australia.
This agreement will see rail play a bigger role in the national economy while delivering more freight and passenger services for Australians.
Since federation, rail has run as a series of independent rail networks, often receiving upgrades and new technologies at different times from different suppliers. This has led to a range of critical issues impacting national rail productivity and innovation, such as:
- the use of different rail gauges, signalling systems, rolling stock and safe working arrangements, which are an economic handbrake requiring costly work-arounds
- differences in how we run trains, manage rail crew and invest in new rolling stock
- experienced rail workers being isolated to geographic areas based on these differing technologies, compounding rail skills shortages.
Improving national rail interoperability is also one of the National Cabinet's five priorities for collective action. Infrastructure and Transport Ministers agreed to a number of productivity and safety measures in December, including:
- setting a small number of critical national rail standards
- aligning the different train control and signalling technologies used along the eastern seaboard
- reducing the burden that different rail approaches have on drivers, crew and maintenance workers
The Memorandum of Cooperation commits rail operators, builders, manufacturers and transport ministers to work together to make rail more interoperable, particularly for any future major rail investments.
This builds on the Albanese Government’s commitment to delivering the National Rail Manufacturing Plan, to support a nationally coordinated approach that will grow the rail manufacturing sector and create skilled manufacturing jobs.
The government will shortly appoint a National Rail Advocate and Rail Industry Innovation Council to support the plan and drive genuine change in Australian rail manufacturing, including bolstering supply chains and building domestic capabilities.
Quotes attributable to Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government Minister Catherine King:
“Improving interoperability of the national rail network will mean more people will be employed, more manufacturing will be local, and more passenger and freight services will travel by rail.
“Today’s first signatures on the historic Memorandum of Cooperation commits all governments and industry to work together to ensure rail can play a bigger role in our nation’s future.
“Working together will be the catalyst that delivers an Australian rail network that operates smoothly across state borders, by using compatible technologies and systems.”