FASTER RAIL: TO WHERE = VERY FAST TRAIN (VFT?)

AIB Executive Director’s response to Transcript of House of Representatives Standing Committee on Infrastructure, Transport and Cities – Options for Financing Faster Rail.

Australian Institute of Building (AIB), the professional body for building practitioners, assist the construction industry to advance through learning. The AIB, through its members, strive for continuous improvement and in doing so, learn from mistakes of the past and  ensure they are not repeated. Most importantly, that government, private enterprise, and industry bodies plan the future collaboratively.

As a society and economy, we cannot afford to waste the opportunity to plan and maximise the significant investment due to short-term thinking. A “Faster Rail” is short-term thinking when the bigger picture is a VFT. Currently, each state is doing its own thing in relation to rail and infrastructure projects, with, in AIB’s view, no master plan. The last time this happened, Australia ended up with three different rail gauges.

History shows that short-term thinking in Infrastructure and projects has led to inadequate public transport, housing, and health facilities. More so, not cognisant of socio-economic and environmental factors that have been mounting for decades.

Australia is expected to be home to 30.0 million in 2031, an increase of 4.4 million on today’s number of 25.6 million. Where these Australians be living, working, traveling to and from, learning and accessing health services will depend on how government, enterprise, and professional industry bodies such as AIB, work together.

A VFT network can underpin a de-centralisation policy that delivers social and economic benefits by way of affordable housing and restricting the urban sprawls, and consequences, of Sydney and Melbourne.  Examples may include Goulburn in NSW and Seymour in Victoria where travel on a VFT to respective hubs in Parramatta and Sunbury is less than an hour away.

These hubs are growth corridors for a range of transport, manufacturing, and service industries and subject to current and planned investment. With significant support from state and federal governments across a range of construction activities, the AIB warns of an impending labour shortage by 2022.  In both instances, construction and investment is going west for reasons mentioned and will be restricted if the labour pool is too shallow.

The warning signs are there. Over-crowding in Sydney and Melbourne with increases in cost of housing as a percentage of household income for renters and owners. Most importantly, a lack of social housing (low income and the homeless) when a solution is in sight. All that is required is an understanding of the broader socio-economic factors inherent in a national, collaborative approach to the VFT and forward thinking.

Geoff Dart
AIB, Executive Director