Railway opportunities beckon (letter)by Kevin O'NeillNews Weekly
, June 7, 2008
Never before in Australian history has our country had a better opportunity and a greater need for a common rail gauge and a common pool of rolling stock under Federal Government supervision.
Australia is the only nation on earth that occupies a whole continent to itself. Our flat plains are ideal railway country, and we should have the best rail service in the developed world.
In 1945, near the end of World War II, Ben Chifley, a successful Labor Prime Minister and Treasurer, commissioned Sir Harold Clapp KBE, the wartime director of land transport, to provide a report on standardisation of the Australian rail network.
Clapp reported in March 1945 with the most significant document on the Australian rail network ever produced in Australia.
In 1948, the Chifley Labor Government was succeeded by the Menzies-led Liberal-Country Party Government.
The Menzies Government took the view that rail standardisation was "a state matter", and Chifley's proposal lapsed.
In the 1950s and '60s, the energetic and far-seeing William Wentworth MP was successful in providing a standard-gauge rail-link to all mainland state capitals.
Because Australia is the most urbanised nation on earth, the greatest proportion of the Australian nation was now linked by standard gauge. However, the wealth and food-producing regions of Australia were left with three different rail gauges and several different administering authorities.
Today, Australia has wall-to-wall Labor governments, both state and federal, with no room for the blame game.
The Commonwealth government debt has long been paid off, and the federal Treasury is flush with revenue as never before in Australian history.
There is a one-in-a-hundred years opportunity for the Federal Government to provide the nation with a rail network that will stimulate industry both urban and rural, and give a huge lift to the defence profile of Australia.Kevin O'Neill,
Progressive Rail Association,