Push to prolong life of Tier 3 rail lines

29 Mar, 2012 10:01 AM
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NATIONAL MLCs Philip Gardiner and Max Trenorden have called on the State Government to keep Wheatbelt Tier 3 lines open until 2014.

The pro-Tier 3 campaigners have continued their fight against the government's decision to close WA's Tier 3 rail network as a result of a recommendation from the 2009 Strategic Grain Network Report (SGNR), a document which they believe to be flawed and outdated.

The pair said the extended time frame would allow the Tier 3's operation efficiency to be properly assessed and a new, more accurate assessment of the road network option undertaken.

Mr Gardiner said the SGNR didn't apply the same rigorous expenditure analysis of road upgrade costings, as was applied to the Tier 3 network, and was a desktop analysis, not road-specific research.

He said newly available information wasn't considered, including data from the Auditor General's Maintaining the State Road Network report, published in June 2009.

Mr Gardiner and Mr Trenorden said important issues not considered in the SGNR included:

p The strength of the new CBH and Watco partnership.

p Road safety risks.

p The impact of the carbon tax and

p The effect on the environment of increased road freight because studies show road transport uses an average of 7.5 times more fuel than rail per kilometre travelled.

Mr Trenorden said the only value of the SGNR to the State was historic value.

And as a result of their own research, Mr Gardiner and Mr Trenorden have obtained an annual maintenance costing from Brookfield Rail.

Based on those figures, the pair claimed the Wheatbelt's Tier 3 network would be able to viably operate for the 2012/13 and 2013/14 seasons.

"This time-frame would allow the CBH and WATco partnership to prove its efficiency," Mr Trenorden said.

"During this period a new road-specific report should be commissioned to ascertain the true road expenditure required to upgrade the road network which would be affected by the Tier 3 closure."

Mr Gardiner and Mr Trenorden presented their analysis to Transport Minister Troy Buswell in August last year.

They also spoke with representatives from the 18 shires, which at the time, held positions on the Wheatbelt Railway Retention Alliance (WRRA).

Mr Gardiner and Mr Trenorden also met with CBH, Brookfield Rail and the WA Local Government Association (WALGA).

In February 2012 the pair made a presentation to the Wheatbelt Development Commission.

"Only by the government extending the reprieve of the Tier 3 network until October 2014 and the commissioning of a new road-specific report on the roads affected should the Tier 3 network be closed, can the optimum outcome in regard to rail and road be achieved," Mr Gardiner said.

When asked what the likelihood of a Tier 3 extension would be, as requested by Mr Gardiner and Mr Trenorden, Transport Minister Troy Buswell provided Farm Weekly with the following statement:

"In October 2011 the State Government announced a 12-month extension in the life of four Tier 3 lines (Quairading-York, Trayning-West Merredin, Bruce Rock-Yilliminning and Bruce Rock-Merredin) while it continued with its upgrades and improvements to affected roads to enable them to carry more traffic safely," Mr Buswell said.

"The government has already committed almost $190 million to upgrades on the most competitive grain lines and there is currently no plan for additional funding for the Tier 3 lines beyond October 2012.

"Given the strength of the CBH/Watco partnership, the efficiencies professed by CBH and the profits it generates, there is no desire or real need to continue to use taxpayer funds to subsidise the operations of CBH.

"It is the government's view that if CBH desires to continue to use these lines, then this is a matter for negotiation between it and Brookfield."

The announcement by CBH that the first of its 22 new locomotives had rolled off the production line in Idaho, USA, was also warmly received by Mr Gardiner and Mr Trenorden.

The locomotives form part of CBH's $175m investment towards revitalising WA's ageing rail assets.

p The Wheatbelt Railway Retention Alliance (WRRA) will hold a meeting tomorrow at the new recreation and convention centre, Forrest Street, York. The meeting will start at 1.30pm.

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