Weld Australia CEO urges focus on local manufacturing following NSW Premier’s comments on train manufacturing

Following the comments by the NSW Premier and Minister for Transport about the quality of local train manufacturing, CEO of Weld Australia, Geoff Crittenden has responded to say that there is the potential for thousands of jobs to be created in Australia and to support the country’s economic recovery from COVID-19 if trains are manufactured in Australia.

Reforming procurement practices in Australia would have deep benefits for local and national comments, said Crittenden.

“State government rail procurement practices that support local welders and fabricators would create thousands of jobs, supporting local families and local economies in a post COVID-19 world. It would facilitate technology transfer and drive some of the world’s most innovative research and development,” said Crittenden.

The call for local manufacturing follows the NSW government’s dismissal of the talents of local rail manufacturers, with Premier Gladys Berejiklian saying that Australians were “not good at building trains” and Minister for Transport Andrew Constance train manufacturing does not exist in Australia.

While Crittenden highlighted that Australia and NSW has a heritage of building technically advanced train fleets, he also pointed to the potential for future improvements.

“With a long-term procurement commitment from the state governments, rail industry manufacturers would have the confidence to reinvest in their own capabilities, strengthening the industry from within. This type of business innovation strengthens businesses and creates new and better jobs, which together support a move to higher living standards. Innovation investment by business is crucial to our ongoing prosperity. It would make Australia home to a world-leading rail industry, with the capability to build and export superior quality trains.”

In his remarks, Crittenden also pointed out that all of NSW’s trains are manufactured overseas with the $900 million Waratah 2 trains being fabricated in China, the $2.3 billion Intercity fleet of trains is being fabricated and built in South Korea, and the light rail trains are being built in Spain. He indicated that these projects are worth well over $4 billion and had these three projects been awarded to local fabricators, “they would have created thousands of jobs in New South Wales alone, and seen the development of cutting-edge new technology”.

In a similar report in the Rail Express website, Shadow Assistant Minister for Manufacturing and Senator for Western Australia Louise Pratt mentioned that Commonwealth funding should be directed towards local manufacturing, including rail.

“As COVID-19 has highlighted how sensitive we are to global supply chains and as unemployment is rising, particularly in regional areas, now more than ever we need a plan for manufacturing which includes rail.”

With an extensive local maintenance and repair industry, the cost of whole of life support means that it makes sense to build more trains locally, according to Crittenden.

“If our state governments adopted a nationally consistent procurement process that considered whole of life costs and prioritised local content, not only would it create thousands of jobs, it would deliver better quality public transport. Locally fabricated trains would adhere to all relevant Australian and international Standards, reducing expensive rework and repair. Cheap imports from overseas often cost more in the long run,” he said.