Chair’s Op-ed: Time to Fast Track Regional Rail

Train at station

Once again the Grattan Institute is calling on the good people of Australia and their elected representatives to forgo the aim of a better-planned and more equitable Australia – by ‘dissing’ regional rail.

This time, however, the pro ‘mega-city’ agenda of the think-tank is oddly timed.  As a result of COVID-19 restrictions, commentators, businesses and families are all wakening to the idea that remote working and regional living means the great Australian dream of an affordable quarter-acre-block is far from dead.  Perhaps it was a firm grip on the status quo and the infrastructure that was holding us back us all along.

This is a concept that Regional Capitals Australia, an organisation I Chair and which our active members have long been championing.  We make this case because better-connected regional cities have communities that are healthier and wealthier – more access means more opportunities.

In an opinion piece responding to Labor’s call for fast rail along the east coast, the Institute has stated the concept must be put to bed.  “Good bullet trains are expensive, and bad bullet trains are very expensive” the Institute grandeurs, in what could easily be the catch cry for boffins preaching to the inner-city echo chamber.

Perhaps a more relevant statement is that continuing to serve a ballooning Sydney and Melbourne with new brownfield rail infrastructure is very expensive and the debt we can no longer afford.  Our country needs a firm grip on the future, not a commitment to doubling down on the things that have held us back – namely productivity crushing congestion.

For good reason, Federal Labor and the Morrison-McCormack Government both have ‘positions’ and ‘plans’ to improve Australia’s regional rail.   If COVID-19 has shown us anything, it must be that now is the time to move on past ‘positions’ and ‘plans’.  Now is the time to put regional rail on the ‘shovel-ready’ and ‘funded’ track.

They say that all good ideas have their time.  With a rethink on the way we live and work on the cards and a government ready to build its way out of debt – there has never been a better time to fast track regional rail for the benefit of all Australians.



Molly Hurley, Regional Capitals Australia Secretariat
M: 0499 199 795


About Regional Capitals Australia

Regional Capitals Australia (RCA) is a national alliance of local government councils across the nation representing Australia’s regional cities. RCA’s mission is to provide a recognised platform to champion the strategic importance and sustainable development of regional capitals around the nation. To learn more about our work