The Queensland and Australian Capital Territory governments released their individual state budgets on June 3, and both show plenty of promise for the regions’ rail infrastructure.
Following the release of the federal budget last month, a lot of attention was directed towards the perceived lack of dedicated rail funding, while substantial investment was allocated to road infrastructure. This was especially perplexing given that rail remains a crucial component of transport networks throughout in the country.
It has therefore been left to state governments to dedicate appropriate funds with regards to the development of rail in their regions, and as the recent budgets from the ACT and Queensland show, rail infrastructure remains high on the agenda for many.
Acting on better public transport in the ACT
In contrast to the disproportionate allocation of transport funding announced in the federal budget, in which the majority of support went to roads, the ACT 2014-15 state budget demonstrates fair funding for all modes of transport.
This is demonstrated by an additional $21.3 million allocated to developing the Canberra Capital Metro project, in what is a massive boost for public transport in the territory’s capital. Despite the strong focus being placed on improving the city’s light rail network, Bryan Nye, CEO of the Australasian Railway Association, stressed that the ACT’s “robust public transport infrastructure budget” is not leaving out other forms of transport.
“This ACT budget includes not only the needed investment of $21.3 million towards Capital Metro, but also an almost equal allocation of $20.1 million for ACTION buses and Transport for Canberra initiatives, confirming that other transport options will not suffer with the introduction of light rail,” he explained.
“By almost equally investing in buses, light rail, and roads, the ACT government is proving that current transport systems will not suffer with the investment of light rail.”
The ACT government’s continued dedication towards investing in Canberra’s light rail – while also keeping in mind the importance of maintaining other transport infrastructure – is certainly a positive sign to see. The government is now seeking expressions of interest to build and run the light rail network, with construction slated to commence in 2016.
Asset sales key to Queensland’s rail funding
In Queensland, the state budget also promises substantial funding to key rail projects, with funds likely to be sourced from the numerous asset sales outlined in the budget. One of the highlights in the budget was the Brisbane Bus and Train (BAT) Tunnel project, which will run under the Brisbane River and stretch for five kilometres. Approximately $1 billion will be directed to this project.
However, Mr Nye urges that there needs to be clearer detail around the asset sales programs that will fund this and other vital transport projects, with the exact amount – and certainty – of funding yet to be confirmed
“As it stands the funding of these critical infrastructure projects is dependent on an asset sales program that has not been fully detailed,” he stressed.
“The idea of putting the state’s government-owned assets to the market makes sense, particularly with the federal government incentive package providing a further 15 per cent of the price of the asset sold, however more reassurance is needed in terms of what assets are set to be sold and when will the sale of these assets take place.”
According to the budget, the Queensland government is aiming to raise a total of $33.6 billion from asset sales, with the majority of this ($25 billion) to be used to pay some of the state’s debt. How successful these asset sales are and how much funding the transport projects will ultimately receive remains to be seen.