Our new public-transport-loving Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, wasted no time in making it clear that public transport was going to be front and centre in his government’s approach.
Less than a month after taking over the helm from Tony Abbott he announced federal funding for the proposed Gold Coast Light Rail extension, which meant the project would be up and running in time for the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
As PM, Mr Abbott had refused to fund the project unless Queensland sold off public assets. Mr Turnbull’s money will have no such caveats.
Reinforcing his commitment to public transport Mr Turnbull said public transport infrastructure was critical to the development of Australia’s cities.
“Our cities are the crucibles of innovation, of enterprise – it’s where so much of GDP is created and it’s vital that they have the right infrastructure, whether it is telecommunications infrastructure or transport infrastructure like this,” he said.
“In the future we want to look at more innovative approaches. We want to look at arrangements where we can partner.”
Mr Turnbull quickly followed up by agreeing to release the $1.5 billion earmarked for Melbourne’s east-west road tunnel by Mr Abbott for use on the Melbourne Metro rail project – a move applauded by Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and the Australasian Railway Association (ARA).
While this move is welcome, there needs to be a lot more money made available for infrastructure projects – particularly rail.
In this issue Track + Signal reports on the ARA’s five-point platform for the next election with a list of projects the ARA says are vital to the nation’s future prosperity. One of the authors of the plan points out that unless money starts to be invested in new projects soon, the rail industry will start to run out of steam by 2019-20.
Let us hope that whoever wins the next election takes that warning seriously.
– TONY DUBOUDIN, editor