'Understanding Australia's Urban Railways' report released

FEDERAL Infrastructure and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese last week released a new report by the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE), titled 'Understanding Australia's Urban Railways'.

This report provides an overview of the urban railway systems in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide, including both passenger and freight services. It also explores network and service provision, patronage trends, the urban freight rail networks and plans for capacity and network expansion.

Mr Albanese said the report shows that smart planning and design, backed with the required infrastructure, can produce real results and highlights rail's strengths in long-distance urban travel and travel that links city centres to growing suburbs.

The Minister said the report highlights the example of Perth, where "remarkable progress has been made to make rail an attractive alternative to car travel. Fast frequent services, good bus and car interchanges, and station facilities, have all helped to draw patrons to rail."

Among the report's finding are:

  • Rail services are geared towards radial-based commuting tasks but, with typically poor service standards in the off-peak, rail does not fulfil its potential in other travel markets. The challenge for urban passenger rail services lies in how well they can serve non-radial and non-commuting tasks.
  • Urban patronage has grown in the last decade, although those growth rates vary considerably across cities:
    • Perth and Melbourne have experienced significant patronage growth in the decade since 2001–02.
    • Brisbane saw strong growth for most of the decade although patronage levels have fallen since 2008–09. 
    • Sydney's patronage declined in the first half of the decade but has grown modestly since 2005–06.
    • Adelaide's patronage grew early in the decade but has declined since 2008–09.
  • Patronage is influenced by external factors (such as changes to oil prices, employment, population and disposable income) and internal factors (changes to road and rail networks, changes to rail service quality, and fare changes).
  • In 2006, Sydney's CityRail network had the greatest journey to work mode share at 14.5 per cent, followed by Melbourne (10.1), Brisbane (7.2), Perth (5.1) and Adelaide (2.5).

The full report, 'Understanding Australia's Urban Railways', is available from the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics website at <>.

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