New Government figures have confirmed a dramatic collapse in rail investment under the Coalition.
The Australian Infrastructure Statistics, Yearbook 2016, released yesterday, shows that total Commonwealth investment in rail has hit its lowest point since the Howard era.
The report also shows the former Labor Government’s record investment in rail.
This includes in its last two Budgets where rail expenditure reached $1.6 billion over 2013-14 and $1.2 billion over 2012-13.
But in its first year the Coalition Government’s investment in rail collapsed to $741 million.
This confirmation of serious under-investment comes a week after it was revealed in the National Accounts that “public capital expenditure detracted 0.5 percentage points from growth as it declined from elevated levels in the June quarter”.
The warning follows earlier Australian Bureau of Statistics figures showing that total public sector infrastructure investment fell by 20 per cent in the Coalition’s first two years in office.
It also comes after news that in the 2015-16 financial year the Government invested only $5.5 billion in infrastructure, despite having promised in its notorious 2014 Budget that it would invest $8 billion.
Since last week’s release of the National Accounts, business and industry leaders have called on the Government to increase its infrastructure investment.
Instead this Government is cutting spending and continuing to pretend otherwise.
Forward projections from this year’s Budget show that in 2019-20 investment on rail will fall to zero (2016-17 Budget Paper Number 1, page 5-38).
Increased rail investment is critical given worsening traffic congestion, which is acting as a handbrake on productivity and economic growth.
Now is the time to invest in rail.