'Commonwealth should save rail services'


'Commonwealth should save rail services'

Independent Senator Janet Powell has called on the federal government to save rail services targeted for closure by the Victorian government of Jeff Kennett.

Powell says the government should direct Australian National Railways to tender for the threatened country services. "ANR, a federal government business enterprise, provides freight and passenger rail services around Australia and would be an appropriate and experienced operator" for the Victorian services, said Powell.

The Kennett government has announced that it will tender out many of the routes presently covered by the Victorian railways, making it likely that private bus companies will be the cheapest bidders.

Unlike railways, which must maintain tracks and other infrastructure out of their own revenue, private buses receive a large hidden subsidy in the form of very cheap use of public roads. The accounting methods which judge buses a cheaper form of transport also take no account of environmental factors.