A CONTINGENT of WAFarmers representatives were invited to meet with Premier Colin Barnett and Transport Minister Dean Nalder as a group of disgruntled protesters called for the re-opening of Tier 3 rail in a rally held on the steps of Parliament House on Tuesday.
WAFarmers president Dale Park took the opportunity to present the Premier with a bill for $2 million in lieu of additional freight costs to farmers this season as their grain is transported to port by road instead of rail.
Mr Park said government refusal to invest in rail and force Brookfield Rail, which leases the rail lines, to reopen more than 500 kilometres of track that has been shut down earlier this year was hurting farmers' profits and ignoring the importance of grain to WA's economy.
He said he also feared for public safety in region that has the country's highest fatality rate as Wheatbelt roads were subject to increased traffic from grain trucks.
As a part of the Government's Inquiry into the Management of Western Australia's Freight Rail Network, recommendations 19 and 20 outlined a need to negotiate with Brookfield Rail to allow access to Tier 3 lines and in the absence of this, the Government "investigates and pursues all means to recover those lines".
Mr Park said the inaction in the month following the release of the report was ignoring the needs of rural people.
"If we have had the right climatic conditions that suit there's every possibility that we can get up towards 20 million tonne of grain in the Wheatbelt (at some stage in the future)," he said.
"Seeing that we haven't got Tier 3 at the moment and seeing that the government has failed to carry out the recommendation in this his report we are giving the government an invoice for $2 million for the additional freight charges that have resulted from the lack of having Tier 3."
Mr Park also presented a further invoice for the "missing" $202 million from $320 million outlined in the Strategic Grain Network Report to Mr Barnett in an effort to highlight what is not being spent on deteriorating rural roads.
The rally was a joint venture between WAFarmers and the Wheatbelt Railway Retention Alliance (WRRA) and WRRA chairman Greg Richards said the volume of truck movements on rural roads was beyond the capabilities of the infrastructure.
"The Wheatbelt region is already disproportionately represented in road toll statistics and the lack of required funding is putting lives at risk," he said.
When presented with the invoices and statements from WAFarmers and the WRRA, Mr Nalder said it was important to recognise that the Tier 3 rail "represents less than 10 per cent of the grain growing district in WA".
He said that during the past 10 years, $280 million had been spent within the grain freight network and a committee examining the matter had recommended a majority of that be on road, but 40 per cent was committed to Tier 3 rail areas.
"The government remains committed to commercially viable lines out in the Tier 3 areas," he said.
Mr Nalder said it was important for the arbitration between CBH and Brookfield Rail to run its course and he encouraged the two groups to seek a resolution.