AUSTRALIAN transport ministers convened in Melbourne on September 10 for the Australian Transport Council’s Rail Summit. The ostensible reason for the meeting was to discuss which line should be built to Darwin (p697) - expressions of interest for the Alice Springs proposal close on November 30. In practice, thanks to a hard-hitting and intensive lobbying campaign by the Australasian Railway Association (p693), ministers were persuaded to get down to serious discussion about the future of Australia’s existing rail network. The more-than-welcome result was a framework agreement that puts in place several key elements in the jigsaw of interstate rail services.

Noting that no party was satisfied with the present messy arrangements governing interstate rail service, ministers acknowledged that regulatory and operational ’breaks of gauge’ needed to be eliminated. To achieve this they agreed a set of principles which will help develop detailed proposals for reform to be considered on November 14. These include: