Inaugural National Faster Rail Agency CEO appointed

The inaugural chief executive officer for the National Faster Rail Agency (NFRA) has been appointed, the minister for population, cities and urban infrastructure, Alan Tudge, announced on Monday.

Barry Broe will commence at NFRA on January 6 and will serve as CEO for an initial five-year term. Broe will be coming into the role after seven years as coordinator-general for the Queensland government.

“Broe has spent over 40 years in major project, transport and public sector infrastructure delivery including over 17 years at executive or CEO level. He has direct local and international experience in rail and planning,” according to a government spokesperson.

He has held senior roles across government agencies, including with Brisbane City Council as divisional manager Brisbane Infrastructure, with Transport for London as director of transport planning and policy, and with Queensland Transport as director transport planning South East Queensland, according to his LinkedIn page.

Broe’s role as Queensland’s coordinator-general involved assessing and approving major infrastructure projects, oversight over projects in designated “state development areas” to promote economic growth, and ensuring that communities near large resource projects benefited from the construction and operation of those projects.

The NFRA was created five months ago, in July this year, to support the delivery of the government’s 20-year Faster Rail Plan, which includes $2 billion for faster rail between Melbourne and Geelong and eight regional to capital city business cases along the eastern seaboard.

“Faster rail networks are crucial to easing congestion pressures in our cities and shaping Australia’s future as our population grows,” Tudge said.

“Investing in faster rail will create jobs and bust congestion, giving time back to commuters and enabling more people to live in our regions while working in our cities.”

The NFRA will work in partnership with state and territory governments and private industry to develop the rail infrastructure between major cities and key regional centres necessary to for the project. The agency will have an Expert Panel to provide advice on faster rail related matters including existing faster rail project business cases, new potential faster rail corridors, future developments across networks and infrastructure requirements and priorities.

The Australasian Railway Association (ARA) congratulated Broe on the appointment.

“Mr Broe has a strong reputation of achievement and we welcome his appointment to deliver faster rail in Australia,” ARA chairman and acting CEO Danny Broad said.

“It will be critical that the Agency, under Mr Broe’s leadership, recognises the need to invest in existing and new lines to stretch Government dollars and provide a faster rail service offering that meets the needs of the Australian population.”

The ARA, however, pointed out that not all faster rail projects require brand new rail lines.

“Faster rail can be achieved through upgrades and modifications to existing rail infrastructure, such as passing loops, new signalling systems and level crossing removals.”

The industry association said that its member companies have identified a number of smaller projects that can deliver faster rail solutions without the expense of investing in new rail lines and trains.

“The ARA also looks forward to discussions with the Agency about long term plans to acquire the corridor for Brisbane to Melbourne High Speed Rail,” Broad said.

Geelong to get a high speed rail link

An implementation plan is now in place for a high-speed rail that would enable a 32-minute journey from Geelong Station to Melbourne, which sit roughly 75 kilometres apart.

“That would completely transform this region in the process, building that connectivity,” said Australian Federal Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure Alan Tudge, announcing the launch of the Geelong City Deal Implementation Plan on Tuesday.

The cities could be linked by trains travelling between 250 and 300 kilometres an hour under the plan.

Funding for the project will be covered by both the federal and Victorian governments, who are currently in discussions regarding the Geelong project which will integrate with the Melbourne Airport Rail Link project.

Initial construction work linking Southern Cross to Sunshine will constitute the most complex and expensive part of the project, according to Tudge.

Altogether it is a $10 billion project, said Tudge, with  $6 billion of these funds going towards Southern Cross to Sunshine station work, covered by funding for the Melbourne Airport Rail Link which is estimated to cost between $8 billion and $13 billion.

A $50 million business case is currently underway for the Geelong project, according to the state government.

Victorian Minister for Regional Development Jaclyn Symes said all three levels of government, including local, were committed to achieving a shared vision for Geelong over the next 10 years through the City Deal.

“The City Deal is expected to inject $370 million into Geelong and the broader Great Ocean Road region,” said Tudge.

Hobart seeks to drive higher transport uptake

A vision to drive higher transportation uptake, as part of the 10-year, $1.6 billion Hobart City Deal, is being progressed with the release of an implementation strategy in early October.

The Hobart City Deal Implementation Plan commits to capacity building in transport services and the providers of those services, as well as in the infrastructure to encourage and enable public transport.

The Australian and Tasmanian governments and the Glenorchy and Hobart councils will determine which projects to fund as part of this, a statement from the federal government indicated.

One of the targets is to increase development along transit priority corridors, including activating the northern suburbs rail corridor and a light rail corridor.

Tasmanian Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Michael Ferguson said that in order to activate the Northern Suburbs transit Corridor, the Tasmanian government is currently advertising for a transport consultant to undertake a study into the most effective transport solution along the disused northern suburbs rail corridor.

“The study will take into consideration the infrastructure needs within the corridor, the ideal surface the particular vehicle type would travel upon, station requirements, signalling considerations and integration with other transport options,” said Ferguson.

The city will also establish a common ticketing platform, supported by a $7.5 million investment over four years by the Tasmanian government for Metro Tasmania to lead the work.

Investments will be made towards improving the reliability and speed of real-time information, as well as to provide for new technology.

Road usage will be supported by Smart Traffic Management solutions, such as implementing a new On-Road Traveller Information System, which will provide road users with real-time data on incidents, alternative routes and travel times. A new incident management system will determine tow truck deployments and clearway management.

Another target of the Hobart City plan is to reduce congestion bottlenecks through targeted capital investment and smart technology solutions.

A commitment of $25 million in funding has been made through the Australian government’s Urban Congestion Fund for infrastructure projects to reduce congestion with a focus on the northern corridor.

The Tasmanian government is committing $105.5 million in total to reduce congestion. $20.8 million has been set aside for the Kingston congestion package, which will support the redevelopment of a bus transit centre and provide clearways to improve the flow of traffic.

Federal Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure Alan Tudge said, “Planning, design and construction of congestion-busting roads across Greater Hobart can start thanks to a combined investment of over $890 million.”