Build them trains here

A Labor Government will ensure that more trains are built in Australia by local manufacturing workers, establishing a National Rail Plan to ensure that every dollar of Federal funding spent on rail projects goes towards creating local jobs and protecting our rail industry, said Bill Shorten and Anthony Albanese.
“Australia will spend more on rail in the next decade than on submarines. It’s important to get that investment right,” they said in their statement.
“Labor believes that investment in rail should create local jobs and boost our domestic manufacturing capability – rather than just flowing to overseas industry competitors.
“The Australian rail manufacturing industry employs 5,000 workers, with another 7,000 in the supply chain. But the industry has lost over 3,000 jobs in the past decade. Labor’s plan will protect and create more jobs.
“Labor’s serious about investing in rail – we’ve committed $3.7 billion to new urban rail infrastructure around the country. And with more than $100 billion to be spent by governments and private companies in rail-based public transport projects throughout Australia in the next two decades, a national plan is critical to ensure we harness the massive opportunities for this investment – for more jobs and a better industry.
“Labor will work with the states and territories through the Council of Australian Government to develop a National Rail Procurement and Manufacturing Strategy.
“As part of this strategy, future Commonwealth grant funding for rail infrastructure projects will be linked to objectives such as work being undertaken in Australia rather than commissioning overseas companies, and cooperation between jurisdictions on procurement,” the pair said.
Labor will also:

  • Establish an Office of National Rail Industry Coordination, to undertake a national audit of the adequacy, capacity and condition of passenger trains nationally and develop train priority plans, including a proposed delivery schedule for the next ten years.
  • Reinstate the important role of the Rail Supplier Advocate cut by the Liberals in 2013 – to help small and medium-sized enterprises identify export opportunities and to get a foot in the door with government purchasing bodies.
  • Establish a Rail Industry Innovation Council – to prevent the loss of more jobs and address the need for more local research & development, skills and capabilities.

The decline of the rail manufacturing industry in recent years has discouraged rail manufacturing firms from investing in their businesses and forced many skilled workers from the industry.
At the same time as the industry is seeing jobs decline, we’ve seen huge projects go to companies overseas – with local manufacturing workers missing out.
Action must be taken to preserve the strategic capabilities of Australian rail manufacturing.
“Labor’s plan will maximise the amount of work that goes to Australian firms – creating Australian jobs.”
Industry agrees
ARA Media Release: The ARA welcomes Labor’s Plan for Rail
The Australasian Railway Association (ARA) has welcomed Labor’s announcement that close to $6 million will be locked away in Labor’s forward estimates, which will go directly to a National Rail Plan.
“This is the first sum of money we have seen committed from a political party to a national rail plan. We would welcome bipartisan support for such a plan in the national interest,” said ARA CEO, Danny Broad.
“Labor’s plan for rail goes to the key recommendations of the recent senate inquiry into the state of Australia’s rail industry and how government procurement can improve the value for money, competitiveness, stability of work and capability of the rail manufacturing industry.
“In many respects Labor’s Plan for Rail parallels the components of the ARA’s National Rail Industry Plan released in September 2017 at a Ministerial Roundtable comprising ministers Chester, Sinodinos and Fletcher.
“Since then there has been wide support for the plan. However, this has been the first significant financial backing we have seen specifically earmarked for a national rail plan. We would welcome Coalition support in the upcoming Federal Budget.
“Labor’s Rail Plan embraces many of the key elements for which the ARA has been actively advocating, including involvement of COAG and a coordination group to engage government and the rail industry in progressing implementation.
“This approach to coordination of effort makes a lot of sense with such massive investments in rail by most Government jurisdictions.
“There is no better time to explore opportunities for local suppliers and contractors to engage with freight and passenger operators. This augers well for jobs and growth in a key industry sector.
“Urgent action is needed to assess the extent of emerging skill gaps and take corrective action through ‘fit-for-purpose’ training.
“Technological change is sweeping through our industry. This must be supported by a strong commitment to innovation — an approach strongly supported in Labor’s announcement,” Mr Broad concluded.
 

ALC announces 2018 Forum speakers

Anthony Albanese, Shadow Minister for Infrastructure & Transport, is among a number of prominent individuals who will speak at the Australian Logistics Council’s (ALC) national freight and supply chain event, ALC Forum 2018.
Following the successful 2017 event, which was held in the Melbourne Cricket Ground, in 2018,  the Forum returns to Sydney’s Royal Randwick, taking place 6-8 March.
Other speakers for ALC Forum 2018 include:
• Brendan Bourke, CEO, Port of Melbourne;
• Chris Bresnahan, Operations Director – E-commerce Delivery, Australia Post;
• Royce Christie, General Manager – Government Relations, Toll Group;
• Paul Graham, Supply Chain – Chief Supply Chain Officer, Woolworths Group;
• Maurice James, Managing Director, Qube Holdings;
• Anthony Jones, CEO, LINX Cargo Care Group;
• Sal Petroccitto, CEO, National Heavy Vehicle Regulator;
• Melinda Pavey, Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight (New South Wales);
• Paul Retter, CEO and Commissioner, National Transport Commission; and,
• Richard Sellers, Director General, Department of Transport (Western Australia).
The ALC said that ALC Forum 2018 will progress the issues put forward by ALC members in the final submission, focusing on the freight logistics industry’s priorities and expectations for the types of infrastructure investment and policy reform required to enhance national supply chain efficiency and safety.

Political stoush over Pacific Highway funding

NSW Roads Minister Duncan Gay has been accused of misleading the public after a letter was leaked by Anthony Albanese over funding for the Pacific Highway.

In a letter to Albanese in late June, Gay said the Pacific Highway had "received an allocation of nearly $740 million more than requested" from the federal government.

Albanese disclosed the contents of the letter this week after a press release from Gay’s department urged voters to back Tony Abbott in the upcoming election because: "Kevin Rudd and Anthony Albanese have turned off the funding tap" for the duplication of the highway from Newcastle to the Queensland border.

"True to form the Liberal and National parties have been saying one thing publicly and something completely different in private," Albanese said.

Gay's letter to Albanese says the state government received more money than requested because some funding did not match with "advice on actual project milestones".

The letter said the NSW government would "accept this additional allocation as a prepayment for the program to be drawn on beyond 2013-14".

Tony Abbott reveals $7bn plan for the Bruce Highway

Opposition leader Tony Abbott has promised $7 billion worth of funding over the next ten years to upgrade Queensland’s Bruce Highway.

In Mackay to unveil the plan, Abbott said if the Coalition was elected it would fix the notorious road.

"I want to be an infrastructure prime minister should I have that privilege after the coming election," Abbott said.

"And as I say, on this particular subject, I am much more of a Queenslander than [Prime Minister] Kevin Rudd will ever be."  

Abbott said the plan was a significant investment to improve safety on the 1600 kilometre highway where four people lose their lives every month, Brisbane Times reported.

"Our plan will fix the Bruce Highway, not just patch it," he said.

“The Bruce Highway is not only the lifeline of Queensland but it is the gateway to northern Australia.

"This commitment is an integral part of the Coalition’s real action plan for Queensland. We won’t just talk about fixing the Bruce Highway, we will actually do it.”

Under the plan, funding for the upgrades would represent and 8:20 funding split with the Queensland government with the Coalition to provide $2.1 billion over the next four years and $4.6 billion over the following six years.

Proposed works include duplications north of Gympie and south of Carins, as well as ringroads in Mackay, Townsville and Rockhampton and planning for other bypasses.

Queensland Premier Campbell Newman welcomed the funding pledge.

"Improvements will be coming to your local section of the Bruce Highway under the federal coalition," he said.

However Federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese labelled the oppositions leader’s policy as"smoke and mirrors" because only $2.1 billion would contributed in the first four years.

"It's fine to say we've got a 10-year plan and all the money's in year nine and year 10 and when we get a fourth term Abbott government we might get around to doing something."

High speed rail for Australia’s east coast

A high speed rail network along Australia’s east coast could be operational by 2065, but no money is expected to put aside in this year’s Federal budget.

Federal Transport minister Anthony Albanese released the second and final report on a high-speed rail network on Thursday, news.com reported.

The 1748 kilometre fast train rail between Melbourne and Brisbane has an estimated price tag  of $114 billion.

"There is no doubt that there are challenges with this but I think high-speed rail will be an important part of Australia's future," Albanese said.

"The route, the costs, the environmental consequences – these all have to be thoroughly examined and understood before decisions can be finalised.”

"The report throws up a myriad of issues. Like all major projects, this one would mean some tough decisions and potential trade-offs."

The study found the rail line was viable, with the possibility of returning $2.30 to the economy for every dollar invested.

The line could carry 84 million passengers a year, with 19 million trips between Sydney and Melbourne.

The preferred route would have regional stations at the Gold Coast, Casino, Grafton, Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie, Taree, Newcastle, the NSW central coast, the southern highlands, Canberra, Wagga Wagga, Albury and Shepparton.

However, Albanese said no money for the project would be set aside when the federal budget was handed down in May.

Greens leader Christine Milne said the government should start developing the "great nation building project" now.

While NSW transport minister Gladys Berejiklian said she backed fast rail but wants  federal government to reveal what funding it would provide.

Albanese said federal government would foot the bill for most of the project.

"We're not putting the bite on state governments today over these issues,"  he said.

Image: politifact.com

Expansion of Princes Highway rest area begins

Work has started on the upgrade of Waldron’s Swamp rest area, just north of Moruya.

NSW Roads and Ports Minister Duncan Gay said the upgrade will take six months to complete.

The rest area, located two hours south-east of Canberra, will be able to house four trucks of up to 19 metres in length at any one time.

Federal Infrastructure and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese said the project will provide truck drivers who regularly use the Princes Highway with a safe, modern place to pull over and take a break or catch up on their sleep.

“The funding for this upgrade is coming from our Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program, the first ever Federal initiative dedicated to addressing the unacceptable lack of safe, modern roadside facilities along the nation’s highways,” said Mr Albanese.

“In total we’re delivering 83 new and refurbished rest stops across NSW, including four on the Princes Highway, complementing our record investment in upgrading key sections of the State’s road network.

“By giving truck drivers more opportunities to get the respite they need, the investment we are making in new and better rest stops will over time make our roads safer for everyone.”

Gay said the expanded rest area will help improve road safety.

Last year in this State, 73 people lost their lives in crashes involving heavy vehicles, with fatigue a factor in many of them.  We must continue to do all we can to prevent similar tragedies in the future – and without a doubt providing new and upgraded rest stops is part of the answer,” he said.

Image: bigrigs.com

Greater intermodal access in Sydney

Freight operators will soon have greater access to the Chullora Intermodal with the Federal and NSW governments agreeing to fund the first stage of upgrades which will see local roads connecting to the facility to the Hume Highway.

Federal Infrastructure and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese said $345,000 project will target Muir Road between Rockwood Road and Dasea Street as well as Dasea Street to the entrance of the Terminal.

“The package of works will involve resurfacing section of these two roads as well as strengthening their foundations at various points, measures which will allow them to be used by heavier vehicles,” Albanese said.

“The relatively small investment being made here will deliver major long term benefits.  In fact Infrastructures Australia has estimated that the current restrictions on the use of these roads has cost the economy and freight operators some $22 million over the past five years.

“What's more, fixing these local roads connecting major highways to important freight hubs such as the one at Chullora is in line with the recommendations set out in our National Freight Strategy and will help boost national productivity.”

The Federal Government has committed $172,500 to the project, with the NSW Government providing the balance.

NSW Roads Minister Duncan Gay said the project demonstrates intergovernmental cooperation to address the ‘last mile’ access issue.

“In addition to the Federal Government, this project also involves a partnership with Bankstown Council and I look forward to working with them to get it done,” Gay said.

“We expect work to begin in coming months and be completed before the end of the year.”

Image: crgroup.com

Goulburn Valley Highway reopens

Victorian roads minister Tim Pallas has announced the Arcadia section of the Goulburn Valley Highway is complete and open to traffic.

The Arcadia section, a $40.5 million project fully funded by the Federal Government, offers an additional 11 km dual carriageway and rest area.

Federal infrastructure minister Anthony Albanese said the newly-opened section of the highway would enhance traffic flow and cut travel time along the transport link between the Goulburn Valley, Melbourne and Brisbane.

Mr Albanese said: “The Highway carries 6,500 vehicles per day, including more than 2,000 commercial vehicles. It forms part of the National Highway route between Melbourne and Brisbane and is recognised as the main freight route serving Melbourne, Shepparton and Brisbane.

“Upgrading the safety and efficiency of the Goulburn Valley Highway will reduce the cost of interstate freight movements between Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.”

Mr Pallas said the establishment of the high-standard road network would play a pivotal role in realising the value of the region’s fruit exports, benefiting both commercial traffic and the local community.

The project was delivered by VicRoads and contractor Cut and Fill. The total government funding for the Goulburn Valley Highway project is $216 million.

Sydney Airport curfew to stay, says Albanese

A380 at Sydney Airport

While airlines are calling for abolition of a curfew at Sydney Airport, federal transport minister Anthony Albanese said it is off the agenda. 

Qantas and Singapore Airlines have been lobbying the Federal Government to loosen operation regulations, saying the current cap of 80 flights per hour and the 11pm to 6am curfew are limiting growth at the air hub, the AAP reported.

 
They said quieter planes would allow the night curfew to be abolished and landing of the jets should be permitted.
 
If no change was made to scrap the limitations, the region would require another airport to handle increasing traffic, Qantas said in its submission to the Government.

But federal transport minister Anthony Albanese rebuffed the proposal, saying the regulations are not up for negotiations as they strike the right balance for communities in the vicinity of the airport.

 
“The curfew and cap…strike a balance between the commercial interest of airlines and the airport with the interest of those people who live around Sydney Airport,” he told the ABC Radio.

“The curfew and the cap are legislated and they are not up for negotiation.

“No government is likely to shift on either the curfew or the cap, it has bipartisan support in the commonwealth parliament and I can’t see that changing.”

 

Infrastructure: merit vs. votes

The Federal Government has released Infrastructure Australia‘s “Prioritisation Methodology” and guidelines for the evaluation of infrastructure proposals just as The Sydney Morning Herald reports on a high-level meeting to allocate funds where there are “federal Labor votes in it”.

According to the government’s release, “the guidelines outline the evidence-based approach that will be taken to select the transport, water, energy and communication projects that Australia needs.

“All proposals will be assessed against their ability to:

•         lift national productivity,

•         strengthen Australia’s international competitiveness,

•         develop our cities and regions,

•         reduce greenhouse gas emissions,

•         and improve the quality of life of Australians.”

But the Herald reports that “the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, and the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, told a meeting in February involving the former premier, Morris Iemma, and senior state bureaucrats that they were not interested in the rail project because Labor had no marginal seats in the area it would service, senior NSW sources said.”

The Herald’s revelations fly in the face of continuing assurances given by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and the Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese that the funds will be allocated based on merit, and not used as a federal Labor “slush fund”, as the Opposition has charged.

The NSW Government’s priority list contains a large number of road projects, with only the West Metro ($10 billion) focusing on public transport and the Northern Sydney Freight Corridor ($3.1 billion) having direct and significant impact on freight movement around the state.

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