Federal gov’t unveils Rail Industry Innovation Council’s chair, members

Image credit: ARA | Sydney Metro

The Australian Government has established a new Rail Industry Innovation Council to streamline practices that will drive growth in the industry. 

The council’s creation follows research backed by the Australasian Railway Association, which revealed that a national approach to rail procurement and manufacturing would have saved the government $1.85 billion over the past 10 years. 

Jacqui Walters will serve as the Rail Manufacturing Advocate and chair of the new council. 

Separate research from ARA found that the current uncoordinated approach to type approval processes by procurers is costing the rail industry up to $230 million per year. 

ARA has been working closely with the Office of National Rail Industry Coordination to advocate for better harmonisation across jurisdictions to boost productivity and innovation in the rail sector, according to ARA CEO Caroline Wilkie. 

The ARA CEO explained how the current state-based local content policies are akin to operating in different countries, leading to duplication of facilities and making it hard for some organisations to bid for key contracts. 

“The industry urgently needs a centralised approach to procurement to drive productivity and innovation if we are to meet the challenge of a $154 billion pipeline over the next 15 years,” Wilkie said

ARA Chair Danny Broad, who will join the new council as a member, said the announcement is the first step towards developing safe and sustainable rail while fostering research and development and boosting skills and capabilities in the sector. 

The Rail Industry Innovation Council will also support the local construction of Australian-made trains, boost onshore skilled manufacturing jobs, and improve government supply and export opportunities for local businesses. 

“The ARA looks forward to the delivery of the National Rail Manufacturing Plan to support industry productivity and facilitate opportunities for Australian manufacturers,” Broad said. 

The Australian government also unveiled several other appointments to the council, which include: Hon Rachel Nolan (former Queensland Transport Minister), Ravi Ravitharan (Professor, Monash University Institute of Railway Technology), Katarzyna Stapleton (CEO, Queensland Rail), Glenn Thompson (Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union), Vicki Brown (University of Technology, Sydney), Graham Bentley (Aurecon), and Samantha McWilliam (WSP).