Western Australia Minister for Transport Simon O’ Brien
Liberal-National Government Secures Future Of Grain Freight Network
Victor P Taffa
Western Australia Minister for Transport Simon O’Brien today announced a package of measures designed to bring greater security and certainty to the State’s grain freight network.
This followed the public release of a report by the Minister’s Strategic Grain Network Committee (SGNC) into the narrow gauge rail network’s future viability.
Mr. O’Brien said the Liberal and National parties had, when forming Government, determined to find a long term and sustainable solution to the network’s problems.
“This significant financial package will increase the volume and efficiency of this strategically important asset and provide certainty to grain growers and the freight logistics sector.” Mr. O’Brien said.
“State Cabinet today committed to fund a 50 % share of the $43.5 Million required to complete the re-sleepering of the Avon to Albany rail line.”
“Discussions will be sought with the Federal Government to seek similar funding.” Mr. O’Brien said.
“In addition, $500,000 will be spent to start project development and pre-construction activities on the proposed Chester Pass Road upgrade, a key North-South regional road route linking Albany and the Southern Wheatbelt.”
“This package stands in stark contrast to the approach of the former Labor government, which failed to address this issue during their eight years in government.”
The Minister said the SGNC review considered all of the historical and contemporary issues facing Western Australia’s grain freight network.
The independent committee was chaired by Professor Fred Affleck of the Freight and Logistics Council, and included representatives from CBH, Australian Railroad Group, WestNet Rail, peak grower groups, and personnel from Federal, State and local governments, including WALGA.
“The SGNC identified that the Commonwealth’s decision to deregulate the grain market has profoundly affected the way grain is both handled and shipped to market in WA.” Mr. O’Brien said.
“In the deregulated environment, famers and grain handlers located in areas where rail cannot compete on a cost-competitive basis with road transport will always opt for the cheapest mode of transport.”
“Western Australians face the very real threat that, unless immediate action is taken, then there will be many tens of thousands of additional heavy vehicle movements on roads between the Wheatbelt and the Kwinana and Albany grain terminals.”
The Minister said to address this immediate threat, State Cabinet had also approved a $6.9 Million Transition Assistance Package for the current harvest to keep grain running on what, at present, are uneconomic lines.
“The State Government has seen the need to keep grain on rail on a number of uneconomic lines for a period of time until infrastructure investment in roads and upgraded grain receiving points on the rail network takes place.” Mr. O’Brien said.
Mr. O’Brien said the State Government recognised that some non-economic rail lines would ultimately need to be put into care and maintenance if the industry opted not to use rail as the preferred mode of grain transport.
“While the Government is committed to keeping grail on rail, the real onus is on farmers and bulk handlers, who currently opt to use road transport, to put their money where their mouth is and put their grain back on rail.” Mr. O’Brien said.
The actions of the Government are focused on putting grain on rail which is in contrast to the performance of not only the previous Labor Government but also Government’s in the East who are taking grain off rail.