THE Australian government has established a Rail Industry Innovation Council (RIIC) with the aim of ensuring more rolling stock is built in Australia to support skilled manufacturing jobs and the local rail industry.

The independent, non-statutory body will be chaired by Ms Jacqui Walters and will provide strategic advice to government on innovation priorities and facilitate practices that encourage competitiveness in the rail manufacturing sector. Walters has also been appointed rail industry advocate.

Walters has a background in transport, renewable energy and venture capital funding and has worked across federal, state and territory governments.

Her appointment, and the establishment of the RIIC, comes in the wake of research funded by the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) and released by the federal government in 2022, which showed that a coordinated national approach to rail procurement and manufacturing would have saved $A 1.85bn ($US 1.25bn) over the past 10 years.

Separate ARA research also confirmed that the current uncoordinated approach to type approval processes by those procuring new equipment is costing the rail industry $A 230m per year.

ARA’s CEO, Ms Caroline Wilkie, says the organisation has worked closely with the Office of National Rail Industry Coordination (ONRIC) since it was formed in 2022, advocating for better harmonisation across jurisdictions.

“It is encouraging to see the federal government act on the decades-long lack of harmonisation across the country’s rail networks that has hampered competitiveness, significantly increasing costs and constraining investment,” Wilkie says.

“The industry urgently needs a centralised approach to procurement to drive productivity and innovation if we are to meet the challenge of a $A 154bn pipeline over the next 15 years.

“The current state-based local content policies are akin to operating in different countries and have led to duplication of facilities and made it hard for some organisations to bid for key contracts. A transparent, long-term and coordinated strategy will be critical to support a sustainable industry and enable increased investment through certainty.”

The members of the new RIIC are:

  • Ms Jacqui Walters, rail manufacturing advocate
  • Mr Danny Broad, chair, Australasian Railway Association
  • Ms Rachel Nolan, former Queensland transport minister
  • Mr Ravi Ravitharan, professor, Monash University Institute of Railway Technology
  • Ms Katarzyna Stapleton, CEO, Queensland Rail
  • Mr Glenn Thompson, Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union
  • Ms Vicki Brown, University of Technology, Sydney
  • Mr Graham Bentley, Aurecon, and
  • Ms Samantha McWilliam, WSP.