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Friday, August 7, 2009
Tasmania’s railways need a long term plan
Community public and rail transport advocacy group Future Transport Tasmania (FTT) today launched its ‘Vision for Tasmania’s railway future’ at the Tasmanian Transport Museum at Glenorchy. FTT has developed a wide-ranging long-term plan that, if implemented, could ensure Tasmania’s railway system recovers to become an economic strength for the state. The plan is a broad submission designed to show just some of the potential future options for rail in Tasmania.
FTT strongly believes that for the railways to prosper into the future they should remain in Government hands. The last decade has shown that relying on private companies to invest in rail carries considerable risk. With the current world financial climate, it also seems extremely unlikely that a private operator could be found who is willing to invest significantly in Tasmania’s railways.
FTT recognises that implementing its vision would be expensive, but when compared to the cost of building and maintaining highways, investment in rail is far more cost-effective. The vision would also of necessity be implemented over a number of years, and specific elements would require further study before being implemented.
FTT Spokesperson, Toby Rowallan, said; ‘This is our vision for the future of Tasmania’s railways. Whilst it may appear expensive, it is a long-term plan aimed at turning the performance of rail from being a struggling poor cousin of road transport, to becoming a competitive service that enhances Tasmania’s economy. For example, the money being spent on the Brighton bypass and the Kingston bypass would pay for many of the items in the plan. As it stands, the construction of the bypasses will impose additional future maintenance costs. Not only that, but the improvement in travel times made possible by the bypasses, will be completely disproportional to the money spent.’
‘We do not want history to be repeated. The Government has to keep the railways to ensure certainty, for the future growth of rail and the economy. Investment will assist in generating revenue, but it is not essential for a government owned railway to make a profit. What is essential is assisting businesses who are using the railways, so that they can grow and further our economic development.’
‘We understand that the Government did not want to take over the railways, but we applaud them for committing to rail and ensuring its survival. We want the Government to now go beyond that, and create a plan to ensure its prosperity and growth. This will greatly assist Tasmania’s economic growth and success. The railways need new locomotives, new rolling-stock, the tight corners straightened and the steep grades eased. Once that is done, then we will be able to say that the railways have really been saved.’
See the summary below and a link to the full document
Since 1978, Tasmania’s rail services have been compromised by the competing ideals of running a profitable transport entity whilst avoiding significant investment and maintenance costs.
A series of ownership changes and a lack of political will, have almost destroyed what was once an economic strength for Tasmania.
It is time to look to the future, and consider carefully the rail system that Tasmania needs to have, and to plan and implement it.
Future Transport Tasmania (FTT) firmly believes that Tasmania’s economy must have a strong infrastructure base in order to cope with any future expansion and minimize current energy waste and other environmental impacts. For the last forty years or more, there has been a massively disproportionate level of funding allocated to roads in comparison to railways, by State and Federal Governments. Railways are not only cheaper to maintain, but rail is twenty times safer than road, as well as around three times more energy efficient.
Future transport infrastructure spending should be altered to give rail priority, to get heavy freight off the roads. If there are further delays in upgrading this vital element of the state’s economic infrastructure, it will cost the state exponentially more in years to come.
The plan includes:
- The Tasmanian railway system to be run as a Government Business Enterprise, similar to TT Line and Metro Tasmania.
- New locomotives ordered immediately.
- New rolling-stock constructed.
- A deviation constructed to straighten the main line.
- Currently closed lines reopened or rebuilt.
- The eventual reintroduction of passenger services including suburban services.
FTT believes that Tasmania needs a modern railway system. The infrastructure and investment required is extensive. However, it will still be much cheaper than constructing a four lane highway from Hobart to Launceston, and certainly much cheaper to maintain. By removing heavy freight vehicles from the roads, the government will then save further maintenance money, not to mention improve road safety. If Governments are prepared to spend taxpayer’s money on a transport system, then FTT believes that system should be controlled by the Government. An increase in rail services will also mean an increase in jobs in the rail industry, not to mention the jobs that will be created for the upgrading of the lines.
Upgraded, the railway network will be a reliable and active assistant in Tasmania’s further economic development.
The full document can be downloaded from here: http://vanpraag.info/cotu/