The Australasian Railway Association (ARA) today 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 Minister’s 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 ARA has been actively advocating for, 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,” Danny Broad concluded.