By Angela Matheson
Australia must redevelop its rail system or face soaring road maintenance costs and inefficient energy use, says the Australian Railways Union.
In a report released late last year, the ARU set guidelines for the revamping of land transport around the country. The report calls for federal funding to upgrade rail infrastructure and the phasing out of heavy vehicle road transport by making rail charges competitive.
The ARU argues that rail is the most efficient form of freight and passenger transport, and is angry at the lack of commitment from government to maintaining and developing railways. Federal allocation to the states for rail investment has declined from $65 million in 1982 to nothing in 1990.
In the same period, the federal government spent $3000 million on the national highways system.
The bias toward road transport has also added to the increase in greenhouse gas emissions. The ARU argues that Australian transport policies have created some of the worst transport pollution levels per capita in the world.
The ARU has called for a comprehensive policy commitment from the federal government to modernise and expand rail transport by the year 2000. n