The financial year always ends with a spot of reflection, especially after a year that has brought us more lows than most.

But despite the challenges of the past 12 months, it is worth turning our attentions to the highs.

COVID-19 presented well-documented obstacles for rail and yet the industry forged ahead triumphantly – providing essential services, progressing infrastructure projects and meeting unprecedented demands.

At the ARA we navigated this new reality, recognising the importance of connectivity and information-sharing. We highlighted the importance of rail projects to drive economic recovery and released a series of research papers to inform our advocacy to support the industry’s long term growth. With four key reports released on subjects ranging from faster rail to the value of rail, we highlighted future needs, innovation and investment strategies to help make the most of the $155 billion in rail investment to come over the next 15 years.

We pivoted our live events to digital experiences to keep the industry connected in these changing times. AusRAIL 2020 was delivered online allowing us to expand the program to include more international keynote speakers than ever before.

We grew our membership, modernised our website and increased our commitment to engage with members in new and improved ways. We offered members access to the first rail-specific remuneration survey to gain insights into talent retention (REMSMART). We introduced a webinar program to provide members with new opportunities for online information sharing and networking. With more than 5000 registrations, the fortnightly sessions generated hundreds of introductions and sparked new conversations.

We ramped up our mentoring programs online, and continued to foster our networks for Women in Rail and Young Rail Professionals. We moved our popular Understanding Rail course online to encourage wider participation, selling out the five-week course in just three days.

We developed two best practice frameworks based on evidence-based research, for tendering and procurement. These frameworks tackle well known challenges in the industry and have formed the foundation for extensive engagement with state and Federal government representatives over the course of the year.

We established a new Sustainability Committee and brought together leaders from across the industry, with a focus on supporting members seeking to enhance their own sustainability focus.

When in person events returned, we organised networking dinners, industry forums and roundtables attended by key industry players and organisations, covering issues ranging from the environment to infrastructure. These events gave members invaluable insights on key issues affecting decision-making.

So, even though the year had its challenges, the ARA has found new ways to meet industry needs no matter what the circumstances. Though there are no guarantees of what the future holds for us, we know that no matter how big the challenge, rail will keep Australia moving.