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Five years ago, Metronet was the pipe dream of a West Australian Opposition keen to present itself as a visionary alternative government.
Today, as the McGowan Government prepares to issue tenders for two Metronet projects — and keeps a tight rein on spending in other portfolios — the proposed rail network is the cornerstone of its policies.
The first stage of the project — $4.75 billion in works — includes almost 72 kilometres of new rail line, as well as the Forrestfield-Airport rail link.
But as the project gains momentum, questions are being raised about whether WA has enough workers with the right skills for the mammoth task ahead.
Stiff competition for workersThe scale of rail developments planned across Australia's capital cities is immense.
Nationally, there are 10 major rail projects, either proposed or under construction, valued at $1 billion or more.
The largest of these, Sydney Metro, will be a $20 billion-plus investment in more than 66 kilometres of new rail line.
Sydney is also building two light rail lines — one in the CBD/South East and the other in Parramatta — which will add another $2 billion of construction work.
There are also major works underway in Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra, in addition to regional rail upgrades and the $10 billion Inland Rail from Melbourne to Brisbane.
WA will struggle to attract 'rail talent'Each of these projects poses competition for Metronet, which at its peak is expected to need more than 3,000 workers.
"We simply are going to struggle to attract the rail talent and the civil infrastructure talent generally — civil project managers, designers and engineers — to Western Australia," Chris Kent, state regional director of Hays Recruitment, said.
During the mining construction boom, WA drew hordes of interstate and overseas workers to highly-paid jobs in the Pilbara, but Mr Kent cautioned that was unlikely to be repeated.
"The east coast was really struggling [at that time]. We were able to take all of the good people out of Melbourne and Sydney," he said.
"We got a lot of people from the UK and this time around it's a little bit different, we've got a lot more competition."
Figures from employment website Seek show job advertisements for rail workers in WA have been rising for the past two years.
In the 12 months to June, rail jobs grew by a whopping 43 per cent.
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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