Federal

Sep 23, 2015

Inland fail: the $10 billion rail line to nowhere

The government is committed to a $10 billion rail project that doesn't add up financially, at a time when Australia needs to improve its infrastructure assessment process.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

Infrastructure looms as a key challenge for the new government, given the failure of Tony Abbott’s “infrastructure prime minister” pretensions and a consensus from independent policymakers, such as the Reserve Bank and the International Monetary Fund, that a “pipeline” of rigorously assessed projects should be an important part of the government’s economic growth strategy. There have also been calls from Infrastructure Australia and the Productivity Commission for better assessment processes and greater use of infrastructure pricing.

8 comments

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8 thoughts on “Inland fail: the $10 billion rail line to nowhere

  1. Coaltopia

    “the project only makes money if you magically wish away the cost of building it” – sounds like toll road tunnels in our major cities, which ironically had their costs written-off.

    Australia would do well to support R&D and investment in the nascent electric truck industry – which could have big pay-offs.

  2. Andrew Parratt

    The article misses a few significant points
    1. Independent forecasts are for freight to increase by 95% by 2040. With no in land rail this means a 72% increase in road freight kms and a 154% increase in coastal rail freight on existing lines. Without changes in technology do we really want a 72% increase in truck freight movements ?
    2. With inland rail road freight increases by 26% whereas existing coastal drops to zero (freeing up for more passenger movements) and the rest is picked up by the inland rail.
    The consequences of doing nothing in any scenario are not good for roads, people on the roads or the environment.

  3. James O'Neill

    Partly for the reasons raised by Andrew P above, it is time to revisit the whole issue of high speed rail, for both passengers and freight. The Chinese and the Russians are currently developing a huge network of high speed rail links on three separate routes linking China and Russia’s Far East with Europe. They are doing it at a fraction of the cost per km that has been cited as the cost of high sped rail between Brisbane and Melbourne, via Sydney and Canberra.
    Why do we not ask the Chinese to provide us with a quote to build high speed rail here? It could even be financed in part by the AIIB which was set up for precisely this sort of reason.

  4. Jaybuoy

    railway lines built by chinese coolies sounds very nineteenth century..whatever Turnbull decides we can only hope its better than his NBN..

  5. ken svay

    Australia spent hundreds of millions on the project to rebuild the railways in Cambodia in partnership with Toll. It has been an almost total failure except for some general getting rich from the scrap costs of old rail line steel. Now the Chinese are offering to do the job properly. I don’t understand why this scandalous waste of aid money has never been publicized.
    Still most taxpayers didn’t care about giving away 55 million to resettle four refugees so what can you say.

  6. Dale Ringham

    “the project only makes money if you magically wish away the cost of building it”

    Has the cost saving on maintenance that less road transport will mean been factored into that equation?
    Or how the roads will be for drivers without the increased road traffic? BUT..of course the roads may not be as well maintained! No win perhaps.

  7. James O'Neill

    Dale, as best I am able to judge, all of the analyses of comparative costs of road vs rail are highly selective as to what is included or excluded. There are also social costs that are more difficult to quantify and environmental costs as well. What is needed is a really independent analysis. Unfortunately vested interests make that an unlikely event.

  8. Norman Hanscombe

    Why the Crikey Commissariat can’t see that as cheap non-renewable resources run out, there’s a need to look at rail projects reducing road cartage such as this one — the more so in that there seem to be prospects of developing more economic activity in currently sparsely populated inland regions — is a puzzle.
    Please Explain.

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