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Railway engineering maintenance is an important part of securing the future of Australia’s rail networks, an industry organisation has stated.
The Australasian Railway Association (ARA) said federal and state governments should examine the bigger picture when it comes to establishing policies for the ongoing operation of rural rail lines.
Chief executive of the ARA Bryan Nye argued that simply putting more and more trucks on Australia’s already congested highways is not the right answer.
“Viable grain and other agricultural rail lines right across Australia are being forced to unfairly compete with other transport modes which do not pay their fair share of infrastructure maintenance costs,” Mr Nye commented.
“This leads to situations where impasses over maintenance costs can lead to rail lines unnecessarily closing – it is akin to a government shutting down a highway because they won’t pay to fix a pothole.”
Mr Nye highlighted several advantages to rail, including the fact that the average freight train takes 110 trucks off the road.
This lowers truck movements by approximately 49.7 million kilometres a year, he said, which is the equivalent of travelling from Sydney to New York 3,100 times.
The chief executive also described the safety advantages, with 1,500 road fatalities per year on roads compared to 40 in the rail industry.
“Despite this, the lack of an equitable and consistent model across Australia for funding track maintenance can still threaten the operation of otherwise perfectly viable rail lines,” Mr Nye stated.
While upgrading new rolling stock has high up-front capital costs and there are substantial ongoing access fees, rail still provides the cheapest form of transport for many markets across Australia, he said.
Instead, Mr Nye remarked, all parties should consider more appropriate railway maintenance funding to guarantee the community’s best interests are at heart, rather than rely on counterproductive methods of transport such as trucks.