Changing track: repositioning the Irish and Australian railways in the national consciousness

Little, Stephen and Hine, Julian (2007). Changing track: repositioning the Irish and Australian railways in the national consciousness. In: Lurdos, Michele and Misrahi-Barak, Judith eds. Les Carnets du Cerpac, Volume 4. Montpellier: Service des Publications, Université Paul Valéry - Montpellier III, pp. 77–92.



This paper explores the development of rail systems in Ireland and Australia. The paper highlights the different trajectories of both systems and charts the experiences and influences of Empire and Commonwealth on both. In Australia the rail system was developed as a way to promote nation building and overcome isolation while in Ireland both prior to after partition the system enabled access to ports thereby not only fuelling migration but improving levels of accessibility between different parts of rural Ireland and town and country. The paper also describes the role of the rail system in making travel to new worlds possible and the way in which systems developed in both 'new' and 'old' worlds to encourage population movements and dispersal and social cohesion. Growing levels of car dependence since the 1960s and the movement of freight from rail to road has had a significant impact on how public transport is used. This is illustrated by comparison between Northern Ireland and Australia. Deregulation and privatisation have also meant that commercial pressures have had a significant impact on the operation of rail in the days of post Empire. The paper also highlights the ways in which this redefinition of public communication technology and infrastructure, not only confined to the rail industry, has impacted on travel culture and the perception of public transport infrastructure.

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