Nationals back Tier 3 deal

Rueben HaleThe West Australian

The WA Nationals have flagged their support for a multimillion-dollar rail deal that could see vital Tier 3 grain lines reopened.

Member for the Agricultural Region Paul Brown told _Countryman _ there was support by Nationals members to thrash out a deal between the State Government, Brookfield and CBH to reopen three "viable" Tier 3 lines.

Mr Brown said he would support the State Government contributing at least a third of the total repair bill through the Royalties for Regions Regional Development fund to reopen the Bruce Rock to Merredin, Kondinin to Merredin and Kulin to Narrogin lines with the provision that Brookfield would lose its right to hold on to unused Tier 3 lines.

_Countryman _ understands the estimated cost to repair the lines would be about $50 million.

"These have been identified as the three most viable lines with the least amount of capital infrastructure required to get them operational," Mr Brown said.

"If we are going to put money into these lines and Brookfield don't want to put money in, then we should have the right to take them back."

Mr Brown said the State Government's portion would be likely to come from the Department of Transport.

"CBH has already said publicly they are willing to contribute and Brookfield Rail has also indicated they are willing to comply with any ruling as a result of the rail inquiry," he said.

"The National Party just wants to be sure we get the best outcome for the State and growers and that means ensuring that any agreement would not lead to more money being unnecessarily spent on these lines in years to come."

Meanwhile, frustrated Wheatbelt farmers have been told they will have to wait past the promised 90 days for the State Government's response to the release of a damning parliamentary committee report on October 14 into the State Government and Public Transport Authority's handling of the State's freight rail network.

Key findings of the report were for the Government to be able to reclaim unused Tier 3 lines, for changes to the network lease to ensure lines could not be suspended without consequences, and for the PTA to be more active in managing the freight network lease in the future.

Quairading grower Peter Wallwork said it was hypocritical for the Nationals to now say they supported grain on rail.

"Five years ago, Brendon Grylls was saying we didn't need the Tier 3 rail lines and now suddenly they seem to be supporting it because they have realised it's what the Wheatbelt wants," he said.

Mr Wallwork also said the State Government had proved unreliable over its promises to fix the roads after the release of the Strategic Grain Network Report in 2009.

"The State Government promised with the release of that report that millions of dollars would be spent on fixing the roads to cart grain, but they're still not up to scratch," he said.

"It was supposed to be a three-year plan to have them all fixed but I don't know where the money has gone because the Quairading to Cunderdin road still has the dangerous S-bends. We had a road train turn over last year on one of those bends."

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