Where’s the money? State Opposition calls for State Government to reveal $200m rail and road funding spend

Headshot of Cally Dupe
Cally DupeCountryman
CBH grain trains in action.
Camera IconCBH grain trains in action. Credit: Unknown/Supplied

Shadow transport minister Shane Love has called on the State and Federal Governments to urgently reveal how they plan to spend $200 million set aside for WA agricultural freight routes, more than 10 months after the lion’s share was announced.

The Agricultural Supply Chain Initiative has been touted to improve vital freight networks throughout regional WA, with $160m of Federal funding announced in May and $40m of State Government funding announced in September.

Just $22m of the total has been allocated so far, with a plan to upgrade four rail sidings at CBH bins at Moora, Cranbrook, Broomehill and Brookton revealed by WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti in February.

Mr Love said work hadn’t started on the CBH projects and there was no news about how the remaining $178m would be spent.

“We know there have been delays across a range of sectors due to COVID-19 so the State Government must guarantee construction on the planned upgrades to the four rail sidings at Moora, Cranbrook, Broomehill and Brookton will begin this year,” he said.

“The joint commitment of $200m is welcome because we understand how important supply chain infrastructure is to the success of rural communities and the strength of the WA economy.

“With just over 10 per cent of funds delivered against projects, we urge the transport minister to come clean on how her Government intends to fulfil its commitment, and when West Australians can expect to see these improvements under way.”

Mr Love said WA Labor was dragging its feet to deliver the “economy-driving improvements” ahead of the Federal election.

Shane Love MLA
Camera IconShadow transport minister Shane Love. Credit: Supplied/RegionalHUB

“There is much more to be done to ensure regional WA has the modern transport network it needs,” Mr Love said.

“On the eve of a Federal election, it is essential these projects are started to provide the community with certainty, and protect against the risk of an Albanese Labor government shelving regional projects and putting jobs at risk.

“This initiative will help get more grain transported on rail and allow for upgrades to other roads, greatly improving road safety in areas of great need. “

Shadow agriculture minister Colin de Grussa said the Agricultural Supply Chain Initiative would reduce rail freight costs for grain growers and boost the supply chain capacity for grain export.

“COVID-19 has thrown great challenges at the agriculture sector, with workforce shortages and shipping constraints impacting production,” Mr de Grussa said.

“Even a global pandemic couldn’t stop our world-leading farmers from delivering a record harvest this year and we need to ensure the freight network can keep pace with future production.

“Reducing associated export costs by upgrading the State’s road and rail network will not only help growers take advantage of the demand for their product, but also local communities.”

The State’s contribution marked the biggest State Government investment in grain on rail since 2010, despite more than $5.7 billion being allocated to the Metronet project for 2021-22.

No news on $200m road and rail spend

Department of Transport representatives embarked on a two-week regional roadshow in July with the hope of nutting out how communities wanted the remaining $178m spent on improving agricultural transport in WA.

Debate over how the cash should be used erupted in the weeks that followed, with community groups arguing the money should be used to re-build closed Tier 3 railway lines to reduce the amount of grain hauled on public roads.

In December, Ms Saffioti said the State was working with the Commonwealth to allocate the remaining $178m and would outline projects “shortly”.

Separately, the State Government is also preparing a stage-two business case to submit to Infrastructure Australia to secure more funding for agricultural supply chain improvements after submitting a stage-one business case in late 2020.

The stage-one business case — called the stage-one problem identification agricultural supply chain improvement business case — was added to Infrastructure Australia’s priority list in February.

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