The Productivity of Australia's Railways in the 20th Century

14 Pages Posted: 28 Jun 2007

Date Written: July 2007


Railways offer significant potential to provide sustainable transport solutions, particularly for freight. To do this, however, they need to remain competitive with other modes of transport, and this requires productivity growth. The more productive railways can become, the better their competitiveness with other transport modes and the better they can perform their role in sustainable transport for the future. The Planning and Transport Research Centre is currently constructing a database covering the economic aspects of Australia's railways from Federation to the present day. This paper draws upon an early version of this database to calculate total factor productivity indices for Australia's railways, highlighting an important aspect of railway history in Australia. Two indices, allowing comparison within railways across time, and across railways, are constructed. From an analysis of productivity growth through the century and its causes, the paper draws some initial conclusions about policy directions to assist in ensuring the future sustainability of the industry.

Keywords: Australian railways, history, productivity

JEL Classification: N77, D24, L92

Suggested Citation

Wills-Johnson, Nick, The Productivity of Australia's Railways in the 20th Century (July 2007). Available at SSRN: or

Nick Wills-Johnson (Contact Author)

DBP ( email )

PO Box Z5267
St Georges Terrace
Perth, 6831

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