Region/Countries: Australia, Australia and New Zealand Industry: Other Date: November 2019

Why this is important to Wisconsin businesses: Its population is expected to double by 2070, and Wisconsin companies can help meet the transportation needs that accompany this growth.

With innovative rail maintenance, engineering and timetable software transforming travel links between regions and across countries, global rail networks have experienced increased efficiency and speed. Railway infrastructure networks in Australia are operated mostly by private companies, but are government-owned and -funded either on a federal or a state basis, with a small number of private railways in existence.

Australia has typically been slow to adopt new rail innovations, and remains the only continent besides Antarctica without high-speed rail. Congestion concerns and the crippling costs of retrofitting Australia’s major cities with a mass transport network have motivated a renews push by Australian state governments. The New South Wales government has also established faster rail as a priority.

The Australian government announced, as part of its National Rail Program in 2017, $10 billion AUD ($6.8 billion USD) for passenger rail networks in and between major cities and surrounding regional centers. In the 2019-20 budget, the government allocated an additional $5.5 billion AUD ($3.8 billion USD) toward the Western Sydney North South Rail Link and rail line between Geelong and Melbourne. Additional funding for passenger rail projects including rail is expected to be considered under the Australian government’s $100 billion AUD ($68.3 billion USD) commitment over 10 years into the rolling Infrastructure Investment Program.

A number of rail projects have been recently completed or are underway:

  • The Sydney Metro is the largest public transport project headed by the New South Wales state government, aiming to deliver 31 metro stations and more than 66 kilometers of new rail. The first line opened in May 2019, with extensions into the Sydney central business district to open in 2024 and further extensions to reach completion by 2030.
  • Civil construction for the Sydney Light Rail has been completed, with tram testing currently underway. The Newcastle Light Rail also recently began operation in February 2019. Other Australian cities are also expected to embrace light rail expansion.
  • The Inland Rail project is the largest freight rail infrastructure project in Australia, spanning more than 1,700 km over the east coast of Australia, expected to be completed over a 10-year period ending in 2024-25. Australia’s largest regional logistics terminal opened in November 2019 to support the project.

According to a report commissioned by the Australasian Railway Association (ARA), Australia’s population is expected to double by 2070, with the majority clustered in major cities. Investment in rail is expected to be central to managing these challenges. The ARA has also released its Smart Rail Route Map Interim Report, which establishes a framework for development initiatives and integration of digital and telecommunications technologies in the Australian rail environment.

The largest Australasian rail conference and exhibition event in the southern hemisphere, AusRAIL PLUS, featuring a three-day exhibition of more than 400 exhibiting companies, was held from Dec. 3-5, 2019. The show was well attended, with a strong presence from U.S. exhibitors. The sentiment from those that attended was that there is an appetite for projects and funding is in place, though exporters will need to be persuasive in encouraging a switch to new technologies, and case studies of these technologies in use may help make the case.