The long-term investment programme represents the largest ever commitment to rail by an Australian federal government.

Half of the funding will go towards a $A 10bn National Rail Programme for new and planned urban rail projects in Australia’s major cities, as well as providing for better connections between cities and regional centres.

This investment advances the government’s ‘Smart Cities’ agenda, recognising that urban rail projects have the capacity to provide opportunities for urban regeneration and create better integration between land use and transport planning.

An additional $A 8.4bn will be made available for the Melbourne - Brisbane Inland Rail project, a dedicated high-productivity rail freight corridor that has been many years in the planning. The size of the commitment has surprised many in the industry who had expected only a fraction of this investment at this stage.

The government says the 126km section of Inland Rail between Toowoomba and Kagaru in Queensland will require extensive tunnelling and will be delivered through a public-private partnership. The private sector will design, build, finance and maintain this section of the railway over a long-term concession period.

Other projects outside of these two major investment packages in the budget announcement include:

• $A 500m to upgrade regional rail networks in Victoria
• $A 792m for Perth’s Metronet suburban rail network
• $A 30m towards development of a business case for the Melbourne Airport Rail Link
• $A 20.2m for Murray Basin Rail building on the government’s previous commitment, and
• $A 20m to develop business cases for faster rail connections between major cities and regional centres.