WA Government to invest $178.8million in grain freight network

Posted by Josette Dunn on 19th November 2010

The Western Australian Government has announced a $178.8million investment package to bolster the state’s grain freight network.Premier Colin Barnett said the funding package would secure the Federal Government’s commitment of $135million announced in the 2010-11 Federal budget.

With previously committed State funds, it brings the total investment in the grain freight network to $352million over four years.

Mr Barnett said farmers and road users would all benefit from the move.

“This massive upgrade to the grain freight network will improve the efficiency of grain transport, which will mean lower costs for farmers,” he said.

“From a community safety perspective, a robust rail freight network means fewer heavy vehicles on the predominately narrow country roads, making it safer for other vehicles, including caravans and school buses.

“The investment will ensure the future of the network and demonstrates the Government’s commitment to the long-term continuity of the grain industry and rural communities.”

Grain transported on the network includes wheat, barley, canola, oats and lupins destined for ports in Geraldton, Kwinana, Albany or Esperance from where it is exported to countries including Indonesia, Japan, China, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

WA produces an average of more than 11 million tonnes of grain annually worth more than $4.5billion a year. Approximately eight million tonnes is exported. This year’s harvest is expected to be halved as a result of the ongoing dry conditions.

Transport Minister Simon O’Brien said the network last underwent an upgrade in the 1990s under the previous Coalition Government.

“This package will underwrite the project to upgrade the State’s network of rail lines and roads used to transport grain from Wheatbelt farms for export while ensuring the majority of grain freight remains on rail,” he said.

Mr O’Brien said the program included re-sleepering works and rail siding upgrades on the State’s most competitive grain freight lines ($187.9million); improvements and maintenance to Wheatbelt roads ($118.3million); a transition assistance package to ensure rail transport remained competitive with road ($14.6million); and a further rail study ($500,000).

The program complements a $50million interim funding package announced in January.

“The plan follows recommendations from the Strategic Grain Network Committee and has the backing of industry, and I thank those who have made contributions through the planning stages that have led to this very significant decision,” Mr O’Brien said.

In 2009, the State Government developed a business case for the grain freight network, which identified the steps needed to ensure the grain freight network’s future, and what funding would be required and when.

“I am pleased to see the recommendations of the business case being put into action,” Mr O’Brien said.

He said no rail lines would close, however some non-economic lines would be put into care and maintenance.

Agriculture and Food Minister Terry Redman welcomed the investment, which comes just days after the announcement of the State Government’s $5million Dry Season Assistance Package.

“This investment in the grain freight network is yet another example of the Liberal-National Government’s firm support for rural communities and the agriculture sector,” Mr Redman said.

“More efficient transport of grain will lead to reduced costs for farmers, makes our grain more competitive on the international market and also makes it easier to satisfy the demands of our overseas customers.

“From a community safety point of view, it’s much better for grain to be on rail so we don’t have grain trucks competing with school buses and caravans on country roads.”