You’ve probably heard the railway companies and the lobby are on one side of a debate.
But the truth is they’re on opposite sides.
It’s the rail industry’s fault.
In fact, the rail lobby is probably the most vocal and powerful lobbying group in the world, and it has a vested interest in preventing a successful railway project from happening.
This week, it will release its long-awaited, $7 billion railway upgrade plan.
The plan is a long-overdue attempt to modernise the railways from a railway that’s still a century behind the times to one that is more modern, efficient and reliable.
Rail is a multi-billion-dollar industry in Australia, with the federal government investing $1.8 billion over five years to help build a modern rail network.
It is a growing industry in the US and Europe, but has been in decline in the past decade or so.
This isn’t just about trains.
It will also mean more jobs for local workers, and that is important.
There are a range of economic, environmental and social benefits to upgrading our railways.
But the railway industry has long had an interest in the project, and is determined to prevent it from happening, argues Peter Kelleher, an author and consultant on rail.
Its a shame that we are having this debate at all, he says.
I think the industry should be saying that we need to be careful and careful with what we do.
It could be good for the economy, it could be bad for the environment, it might even be good politically.
The Rail Industry Association of Australia says the rail upgrade would create 1,000 direct jobs and provide $6 billion in economic benefit for the region.
But in the long term, that investment would be used to subsidise trains and upgrade facilities that already exist.
As the industry continues to push for better rail infrastructure, it wants to be part of a wider project that would help modernise our railway network.
That’s the long-term view.
It’s time to put this aside and do the right thing.
What’s the railway’s response?
The rail lobby has consistently claimed that its business model has been successful.
It says it’s the only company that can afford to build the trains it needs, and if it doesn’t, it’s going to take the taxpayers out of the business.
“We’ve had a very successful railway over the last decade.
Our business model is the only one that can meet that challenge,” a spokesperson for the rail companies told ABC News in November last year.
“We need to do everything we can to be a successful one.”
That’s why the rail industries biggest shareholder, the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC), has consistently urged the government to scrap the rail project and instead work with other sectors to build a network that can serve the public.
While the rail unions are keen to see a rail upgrade, the majority of their members support the project.
The majority of rail industry employees have also backed it, including more than half of the union members in the construction industry.
A spokeswoman for the ABCC says the organisation has had no comment from the industry.