Date : Thursday, 9 August 2007
Time : 3.30pm - 4.15pm
Venue : Conference Rm, Wagga Wagga Agricultural Institute
Presenter : Dr Ian Gray, School of Humanities & Social Sciences, Charles Sturt University
A combination of deteriorating infrastructure, threats to services and the possibility of a big harvest later this year are causing concern about regional railway systems. Ironically, at the same time there is excitement about the possibility of a new inland railway serving Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. However, the lines which currently serve the grains industry have a doubtful future.
Victoria’s system has particular problems arising from a gauge difference and the effects of privatisation on infrastructure capacity. The Victorian Government has appointed a committee chaired by Tim Fischer to work out a long term plan. New South Wales has facilitated some maintenance and rehabilitation work on branch lines but has no long-term plan. The very dominant rail operator in New South Wales is not obliged to continue branch line services after 2007 and may not be keen to continue seasonal and potentially loss-making traffic. This unfortunate situation has arisen because since the early 1990s, through the process of creating a national, largely privately operated interstate railway system based on a model developed under National Competition Policy, no plan has been developed for the regional lines and their unique circumstances.
The seminar presentation examines questions about what should be done in organisational and engineering terms to make branch lines sustainable. It discusses the North American ‘shortline’ model and argues that it should be adapted and considered as a regionally-organised solution with its own systems of management and regulation.