The next phase in the transport construction boom: Public Rail

Australia needs more rail capacity; the good news is that the public sector is acting on it, with over 40% of the items on Infrastructure Australia’s priority project list relating some way to light rail, freight rail or passenger rail. These projects are leading the next phase of the nation’s boom in transport infrastructure construction.

As a result of the healthy steady levels of work happening in New South Wales and Victoria, public sector rail projects had value of work commenced topping $30 billion for the first time in history in 2015/16, and this trend should continue for years to come. BIS Shrapnel foresees the dollar value of rail work done doubling to $7 billion in the first half of the upcoming decade, and even higher numbers for the second half of it.

Adrian Hart, senior researcher at BIS, doesn’t see the rail sector experiencing a boom of magnitude similar to the roads sector over the short-term, but rather believes the sector will remain growing strong for a much longer period of time. “The risk (of the very strong upswing in roads over the next few years) is that it will probably drop off pretty drastically too when some of these projects finish. Rail is going to be different. Rail actually has this very strong, long build period.”

Western Australia is, surprisingly, one of the biggest areas of opportunity – thanks to the Perth Airport Rail/Tunnel Link Project and the Perth Metro Light Rail Project. Opportunities also arise in New South Wales, as the North West Rail Link and the CBD to South East Light Rail underway and the Parramatta Light Rail and the Australian Inland Rail Expressway moving forward.

Opportunities will mainly benefit mechanical and electrical engineers, and equipment providers – tunnel boring machines and other tunneling equipment.

“There is a strong realisation that we have been underspending on rail infrastructure over many years. Now the catch-up is underway. It’s not all going to happen straight away but in the next five years, this is a sector you really want to be in,” said Hart.

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