Closure of Tier 3 rail lines
What they promised
To keep viable tier 3 rail lines open-
What they say now
Tier 3 lines between York to Quairading and Merredin to Trayning closed-
15 Oct 2013 - Despite committing to keep the tier 3 rail lines open just 2 days before the state election the Barnett Government has now announced the closure of the tier 3 lines between York to Quairading and Merredin to Trayning.
The commitment to keep the rail lines appeared in front page advertisement in a number of regional papers. The pledge appeared with a photograph of the Premier Colin Barnett. Farm Weekly 7 March 2013 p1
The announcement of the closure of the tier 3 lines by the Barnett Government will result in between 57,000 and 85,000 extra truck movements on dangerous Wheatbelt roads and roads in the Perth metropolitan area. Hills Gazette 12 October 2013 p1
The decision has met with strong opposition from the WAFarmers President Dale Park who described the Premiers use of the word ‘viable’ as a weasel word. Countryman 10 October 2013 p22
‘CBH, which carts the grain on the lines, and Brookfield Rail, which leases the lines from the Government, regard them as viable. ‘Countryman 10 October 2013 p22
CBH has invested in new locomotives and wagons as part of their commitment to keep the lines open. Government which owns the lines is responsible for maintenance on them.
The WA Local Government Association has opposed the decision, concerned that it will exacerbate the existing safety concerns. WALGA president Troy Pickard said the ‘association’s position was that freight should be carried on rail where possible’. Hills Gazette 12 October 2013 p1
A commitment to keep the rail lines open was also made by the National Party.
‘All lines currently in use remain open and maintained to a standard that allows CBH/Watco to use them’. Recommendation 3 of the Nationals Position Statement
There has been strong criticism of both the Liberals and Nationals in relation to this issue. The following comment appeared in the editorial of the West Australia on 7 October 2013.
‘The grain freight rail issue does not look too good either for the Liberal Party’s partners, the Nationals, who are only too happy to call themselves the real party of the bush.’ P18
All Tier 3 rail lines closed on the 1 July 2014.
The closure of the lines has met with disappointment from the farming community and concern about the increase of truck movement on the roads.
'One of the last trains to run on rail lines in the heart of Wheatbelt carted thousands of tonnes of grain into Merredin yesterday as farmers warned the State Government it faced a huge backlash over its failure to save the ageing track.
Trains and wagons will be cleared from the 509km of track known as Tier 3 at the weekend, with the closure unleashing what some farmers have described as "trucking hell" on country roads.
There are about 875,000 tonnes of grain from last season's record harvest in receival bins on the rail network and Co-operative Bulk Handling estimates moving it will result in about 30,000 extra truck movements.' Page 12 Weekend West 28/6/14
Farmers are calling on the Liberal/National Government to reopen the lines as it was the decision to contract out the management of the lines that has resulted in this outcome.
'The farmers claim the government, and a lack of transparency in its 49-year lease of the freight rail system to Brookfield Rail, is at the "core of the problem' and must be part of the solution.
'Step in and reopen the lines' p1 Merredin-Wheatbelt Mercury 2/7/14
Further update October 2014
In October 2014 the contract documents between the State Government and Brookfield detailing the lease arrangements over the grain freight network were tabled at a Parliamentary committee hearing. It was revealed for the first time that the Public Transport Authority (PTA) that is responsible for managing the rail network lease was entitled to 15% of profits Brookfield make on the tier 1 and 2 lines.
Further to this revelation the West Australian reported that correspondence leaked to them revealed that the Barnett Government as early as 2010, had ticked off on the closure of the Tier 3 rail lines. This is despite front page adverts running prior to the 2012 election by Colin Barnett and the Liberal Party announcing that viable tier 3 lines would remain open.
"A parliamentary committee tabled all of the correspondence between Brookfield chief executive Paul Larsen and Mr O'Brien with the exception of the crucial last letter in the chain.
A copy of the letter leaked to WestBusiness reveals the Government agreed to reduce performance standards set out in the original rail lease. It also ticks off on the closure of lines known as Tier 3 on a mutually agreed date.
Farmers and rural communities said they were struggling to reconcile this week's revelations about secret deals tied to the closure of Tier 3 lines on June 30 with front-page advertisements in local newspapers days before the last State election. In advertisements featuring Premier Colin Barnett, the Liberal Party said it would keep viable Tier 3 lines open and provide funds to maintain them."
Weekend West 25/10/2104