THE Australian federal government and the government-owned infrastructure manager Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) confirmed in this week’s 2024-25 budget announcement that they will invest more than $A 1bn ($US 670m) to upgrade critical sections of the national rail network during the next financial year.

The funding is part of $A 13.2bn allocated for nationally significant rail projects under the Infrastructure Investment Programme over the next four years. The federal government will commit $A 540m together with $A 500m from ARTC specifically to improve the reliability of the 8500km network.

The total infrastructure spend outlined in the budget was $A 62.8bn, an increase of $A 1.5bn, or 2%, on the previous financial year.

Several new rail projects received funding, including:

  • $A 300m for Perth’s Metronet to deliver a high-capacity signalling programme, and
  • $A 50m to plan for Stage 2B of the Canberra Light Rail, funding the extension from Lake Burley Griffin to Woden.

The government has also made money available to progress ongoing projects, including:

  • $A 1.4bn for the Metronet project in Western Australia
  • $A 1.15bn towards the Direct Sunshine Coast Rail Line in Queensland covering the construction of the new line from Beerwah to Caloundra, and
  • $A 290.1m for the Gippsland Rail Line upgrade in Victoria.

The rail freight industry also welcomed the planned upgrade of the national network with the CEO of Aurizon, the country’s largest rail freight company, calling it a key priority.

“This is a very welcome investment in improving the resilience, reliability and competitiveness of inter-state rail freight services which are so vital for a healthy, growing Australian economy,” says Aurizon CEO, Mr Andrew Harding.

“Improving the resilience of inter-state rail infrastructure is a key priority. More efficient and reliable rail freight supply chains are good for the economy because they enable increased investment by rail freight operators and customers to increase volumes on rail, and they also deliver community, safety and environmental benefits.”

“This announcement recognises the critical role rail plays in supporting a strong national supply chain and the great economic and environmental benefits of having a more reliable and resilient network and getting more freight onto rail,” says Australasian Railway Association (ARA) CEO, Ms Caroline Wilkie.

“Repeated severe weather events, particularly flooding, have had a major impact on rail freight and passenger services and resulted in significant disruption to our national supply chain, with washouts on the east-west rail line alone costing the economy $A320m in 2022.”