Victoria needs further federal funds for rail

Image: Rushwright AssociatesVictoria needs further federal funds for rail. Philip Laird

From Track and Signal April-June 2015 Pages 10 and 11. Reprinted with the permission of the author, and Track and Signal magazine.

COMMENT

The year 2014 has been and gone. From a rail freight perspective, Australia’s iron ore and coal railways worked even harder to cut costs to meet falling commodity prices, and there was growing interest in the promised Inland Railway. However, improved competitive neutrality between road and rail freight for road-user charges and track access fees remained as elusive as ever.

On the urban passenger front, Adelaide and Auckland both saw new electric trains placed in revenue service. These new trains were followed by the Gold Coast Light Rail which opened in July and took just two months to carry its one millionth passenger.

The well-designed and well-constructed Perth-Mandurah line – now seven years old – posted another year of excellent service with more than 20 million trips made in 2014.

By way of contrast, the New South Wales Government stopped train services to Newcastle on 26 December 2014. This was despite widespread community opposition supported by a NSW parliamentary committee which called for a halt to the closure, and a NSW Supreme Court decision finding that an act of Parliament would be needed to remove the line from Wickham to Newcastle. Continue Reading…

Victoria’s surpluses take $1 billion hit

The Age: Victoria’s surpluses take $1 billion hit December 23, 2014 Richard Willingham, State Political Correspondent

Victoria’s surpluses have taken a $1 billion hit on the back of a weaker economy and higher than projected unemployment, new Treasury documents show.

The state is also bracing for a smaller GST distribution from 2016-17 because of other states’ mining royalties dropping and a slump in iron ore prices.

The mid-year budget update, tabled on the first day of the 59th Victorian parliament, showed forecast surpluses had been downgraded by $1 billion from the pre-election budget figures, to total just $8.1 billion over the four years to 2017-18.

The document also warns that there will only be a gradual drop in the average unemployment rate, with the yearly average expected to drop to 5.75 per cent by 2017-18. The 2014-15 rate has been revised up to 6.75 per cent.

“The unemployment rate is expected to fall gradually over the forward estimates in line with improving household demand, leading to increased hiring intentions by business,” the update says.

“However, the return to trend levels of unemployment is expected to be slower than previously forecast.” Continue Reading…

Distributing more chaos

Herald Sun Editorial: Distributing more chaos 27 December 2014

AS revealed by the Herald Sun, road experts and local authorities fear the plan by Premier Daniel Andrews to end traffic congestion around the West Gate Bridge may make it worse.

Premier Andrews’ proposal to build a West Gate Distributor to take 5000 trucks a day off the bridge could create two further bottlenecks, they say.

Getting trucks off the West Gate will not solve the problem of a bridge being forced to carry four times as many vehicles as it was designed for.

Extra lanes have been added to either side of the bridge, but even five lanes to and from the city cannot accommodate up 200,000 cars, trucks and motorcycles a day. The bridge was built to carry 40,000.

So the Labor plan for a truck diversion ramp to carry a few thousand vehicles a day would be unlikely to prevent cars continuing to bank up for several kilometres in peak times. Continue Reading…

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