York rail meeting builds on alliance momentum

06 Apr, 2012 02:00 AM
Former Regional Development Minister Hendy Cowan (left), with Bruce Rock farmer Kevin Fuchsbichler.
Former Regional Development Minister Hendy Cowan (left), with Bruce Rock farmer Kevin Fuchsbichler.

THE Wheatbelt Rail Retention Alliance (WRRA) continues to gather momentum for its push to have Tier 3 rail lines kept open.

With 24 shires now on board with the WRRA, an agreement was made last Friday at a general meeting in York to push for an independent report to look at the profitability of the Tier 3 lines.

WRRA co-ordinator Jane Fuchsbichler said the group was calling for a second report as it believed the first report carried out by the Strategic Grain Network Committee on behalf of the Freight and Logistics Council of WA was flawed.

"The report only looked at the cost of road transport versus rail transport at that time and didn't take into account rising fuel costs and their effect on transport, the carbon tax, or issues such as road safety," Ms Fuchsbichler said.

"An independent report will enable us to put pressure on the government and show the benefits and cost efficiency of using rail."

At the York meeting, the WRRA decided to inquire as to whether Royalties for Regions money could possibly be used to fund a second report or, alternatively, if the shires involved would be willing to put money towards it.

Along with a possible report the WRRA also moved a motion to ask all political parties what their stance on the Tier 3 rail debate was, in a hope to gain political clout, coming into next year's State election.

"Obviously there is a fair amount of work ahead but there is recognition that we have a problem that needs a solution," Ms Fuchsbichler said.

Merredin farmer Ian Lane said he couldn't understand the rationale behind closing the Tier 3 lines.

"Having the Tier 3 lines running has huge benefits, trains are able to move much more grain at once and work out to be much more efficient," he said.

"No matter how you cut the cloth they are a better option."

Former WA Regional Development Minister Hendy Cowan was also at the meeting and believed that transport users in the Wheatbelt had to be able to say exactly what their needs were and make them clear to those in government.

"These include additional funds for road, to get them up to road train status and ensure they are safe and keeping the big volume freight off the roads and on the rail, which means more maintenance money for Tier 3 rail," he said.

Mr Cowan said it was necessary that the State Government ensured maintenance for the rail was kept up.

"Should the access fee not meet the requirements of maintenance, there should be money to supplement that from the consolidated fund because the infrastructure still belonged to the State - I know that because I handled the bill going through Parliament," he said.

"It's absolutely essential that everybody involved with policy development in State Government talk about the transport needs of the Wheatbelt in the near future."



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