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Rail lobby aims to get debate on track

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Paddy Doulman

The federal government is looking into research on how people feel about rail these days.

The federal government is looking into research on how people feel about rail these days. Photo: Wolter Peeters

Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Anthony Albanese will drive a train on Monday from Parliament House.

Parliamentarians and government staff will have the chance to drive the multimillion-dollar machine, yet it isn't the high-speed or light rail that some Canberrans have wanted for years.

The Waratah train simulator, here in conjunction with the AusRAIL conference, will be at Parliament House for three days and is an exact replica of a Sydney train cabin.

The annual rail conference, the first to be held in Canberra, is the largest in the southern hemisphere and will feature speakers on planning, technology, engineering and infrastructure investment. Rail executives will meet with politicians to improve relations on Tuesday and ''tell the story of rail''.

Australasian Railway Association chief executive Bryan Nye says the main goal of meeting with politicians is to promote rail as the best investment.

''We think, quite clearly, that rail provides a great solution,'' he said. ''We take 150 trucks off the road for every freight train, 500 cars off the road for every passenger train … whether it is high speed, heavy rail, light rail, passenger rail, they're all the same and most of it is made in Australia.''

Mr Nye pointed to polling done by the Property Council of Australia in mid-November that suggested ''the interest that politicians and the public have in high speed rail … is growing''.

The online poll, conducted by Make My City Work Sydney, which 250 Sydneysiders responded to, found that 84 per cent wish to see planning for high-speed rail between Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

An Australasian Railway Association spokeswoman said ''grain lines have suffered from a lack of investment for years''.

Australian Workers Union national secretary Paul Howes is speaking at the conference on the future of rail manufacturing.

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