Sharan Burrow, ACTU President, Penny Figgis, Vice President, Australian Conservation Foundation and Megan Mitchell, Director, Australian Council of Social Services today joined the Rail Tram and Bus Union’s launch of Rail and Urban Public Transport – A New Policy for a New Century, a booklet that proposes a visionary plan for rail and urban public transport for Australia and calls for federal leadership to make it happen.

‘The Howard Government has broken funding promises. Neglect of rail transport is retarding Australia’s future and needlessly putting lives at risk on our roads,’ said ACTU President Sharan Burrow.

‘The rude wake-up call to Sydney from the Christie Reports on public transport, the bailout of Connex and National Express in Melbourne’s rail and tram network, and the joint privatisation of National Rail and FreightCorp have put rail and urban public transport on the front page, but the Howard government has had nothing to say,’ she said.

‘The Australian Rail Track Corporation last year reported that even a minimum of $300 million spent on the Sydney – Melbourne rail corridor would double the freight going by rail on this busiest transport corridor in Australia. But the Howard government has been silent,’ she said.

‘The Federal Government’s Roads to Recovery program, announced before the last Federal election, increased federal funding by $1.6 billion over four years, on top of its annual expenditure of $1.6 billion. Rail was promised $250 million over four years in 1997, a mere 3% of the total money promised for roads, but even this money is still not all spent,’ she said.

‘We need to improve and extend our public transport infrastructure and services,’ said Penny Figgis, Vice President, Australian Conservation Foundation. ‘Transport energy use per capita in Australian cities is second only to that of the USA. Urban rail is two and a half times as energy efficient than cars and rail freight is three times more energy efficient than trucks. And walking and cycling are the most energy efficient, and healthy, ways to travel. Increased Federal funding for sustainable transport is essential.’

‘Access to effective transport networks is critical to the economic and social wellbeing of rural and regional communities, and to employment opportunities for the people living in them’, said Megan Mitchell, Director, Australian Council of Social Services. ‘Retaining effective, affordable and sustainable transport networks, especially between capital cities and rural areas, is integral to this’.

‘Our plan puts community objectives ahead of the dogma of market solutions,’ said Roger Jowett, National Secretary, Rail, Tram and Bus Union. ‘This launch marks the beginning of the Union’s campaign to gather a broad community coalition calling for political leadership on rail and urban public transport.’

For more information:
Roger Jowett, National Secretary, RTBU, 0419 611 475
Sharan Burrow, President, ACTU, 03 9663 5266

The booklet can be viewed at