Wednesday, November 25, 2009

On track for golden age of rail

Australia's rail industry is about to enter a "golden age" with $36.4 billion invested last year - more than double the previous year's investment.

But suppliers told Adelaide's AusRail Plus conference yesterday the industry faces new challenges in the rise of Chinese manufacturing and solving the challenge of infrastructure differences between state systems.

"The product that will come out of China is as good as any we produce in the world and significantly more cost effective," United Group Rail chief executive Dean Jenkins said.

Downer EDI Rail chief executive Guy Wannop said the lower cost of Chinese products would not kill local industry as clients were now looking at the total through-life cost of their rolling stock, including 30 years of maintenance.

But he warned the industry needed to look to its own shores to bring down production costs, including standardising products across state boundaries and improving the interoperability of onboard systems.

The Federal Government's appointment of Futuris Automotive chairman Bruce Griffiths as the first "supplier advocate" was a sign it was looking to the future of the industry, Australasian Railway Association chief executive Bryan Nye said, but the industry could expect significant changes. "If they want to invest in public transport, they want to get their value for money and... they will want to see we no longer have seven different crash groups, there will no longer be different components in each state," he said. "At the moment, the same rail car that is operating and built in Queensland can also be used in Western Australia, but there are 652 differences between them. That adds to the cost."

While the global slowdown has taken the sting out of the growth in the resource sector - a key freight rail market - government stimulus has taken over, AnsaldoSTS-Asia Pacific chief operation officer Graham Russell said.

He said the company - Australia's largest supplier of signalling and control products - was now looking at a healthy decade ahead. "We are in for a good time in South Australia. The Government is investing in its local suburban network...and of course, there is the Olympic Dam expansion," he said. "We are in for five to 10 good years across Australia but particularly South Australia."

The Advertiser.
November 18th.

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