Greens Senator for NSW Lee Rhiannon today used her matter of public importance speech in the Senate to call on the Transport Minister Anthony Albanese to play a more strategic role in securing federal transport funding for regional rail services and new public transport infrastructure in NSW.
"While there is more money for NSW transport in the Gillard government's budget, the allocation is overwhelmingly skewed to roads rather than rail lines and public transport services," said Senator Rhiannon.
"I call on Transport Minister Albanese to rebalance this equation and play a more active role in securing federal funding for urgently needed rail and public transport infrastructure in NSW.
"Priorities for spending should include re-opening the axed Casino to Murwillumbah passenger rail line, restoring rural rail branch lines, and building an expanded light rail network for Sydney.
"For a decade the NSW roads budget has outstripped the rail budget. In the federal transport budget roads are receiving five times the funding allocated to rail projects.
"Federal investment in NSW transport over the six-year life of the government's Nation Building Program has reached a record $12.1 billion. That is impressive, but there is a catch.
"Each year rail only receives a fraction of the money allocated to roads, so a strategic intervention is needed by the federal government to rescue NSW from a lack of investment in rail and public transport.
"Right now the future for NSW public transport looks grim. There is no money in the state's coffers and successive governments refuse to go into debt to restore regional rail and create a world class public transport network. That’s why the federal government needs to step in.
"The Gillard Government's $4 billion investment in the Pacific Highway is a marked increase on the paltry $1.3 billion invested over twelve years of the Howard government. It's amazing that the Nationals ever got away with that poor spending record.
"Minister's Albanese's website states that interstate freight between Sydney and Brisbane will almost triple by 2029, and 80 per cent of this growth will be trucks using the Pacific Highway.
“The $4 billion investment is a gift to the powerful truck lobby at a time when more freight should go by rail,” said Senator Rhiannon.