As forecast in RG 6.04 p317, Australia’s Federal Government published a White Paper on June 4 promising A$11·8bn for land transport spending over the next five years. On the same day, Australian Rail Track Corp signed a 60-year lease under which it takes over management of lines in New South Wales from September 4.

Acting Prime Minister and Minister for Transport John Anderson described the AusLink package as ’Australia’s first national land transport plan in all the years since Federation.’ It unlocks A$872m of federal and state funding for upgrading interstate lines in NSW and the Hunter Valley coal export corridor to the port of Newcastle.

Taken together with A$450m announced in the Federal Treasurer’s May budget, specifically for upgrading the Sydney - Brisbane line, this means ARTC has A$1·3bn extra to spend within NSW. It will be used to raise line capacity, speed and gross weight limits on the east coast route linking Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane on which rail’s share of the interstate freight market has sunk to 15%, compared to 81% between Perth and the eastern states.

At the national level, while much of the AusLink package will go on roads, rail can be expected to benefit substantially. In Victoria, ARTC is expected to convert the single broad-gauge track to the NSW border at Albury to standard gauge, effectively doubling the existing standard gauge track opened in 1962. In addition, A$110m will be spent on improving road and rail access to the Dynon intermodal precinct and the Port of Melbourne.

In Sydney, A$110m will improve rail access from Port Botany and the interstate routes to intermodal terminals at Chullora and Enfield. In Queensland, the final 100 km from the NSW border to Brisbane’s Acacia Ridge terminal will get CTC, some doubling and level crossings replaced by bridges.