Rail closure costs farmers $2 million

Jo FulwoodThe West Australian

Farmers in the Tier 3 rail catchment areas will be more than $2 million out of pocket this harvest, according to figures released by the Wheatbelt Rail Retention Alliance.

WRRA chairman Greg Richards said this figure was simply the extra cost associated with transporting the 1.4 million tonnes of grain on road, not on rail.

This is combined with the massive cost of cleaning up after road crashes which, according to the Office of Road Safety, can be as high as $8 million per single fatal crash on regional roads.

The WRRA and WAFarmers are urging farmers to take a break from their headers on Tuesday, November 25, to converge on the steps of State Parliament and deliver this simple economic message to the Barnett Government.

Mr Richards said the maintenance of the State's road network lacked more than $200 million in Government funding.

Mr Richards has called on community members in city and country areas to join the rally and protest what he described as the quagmire of linked financial interests between the Government and Brookfield Rail.

He said residents in Jandakot, Mundaring, Kalamunda, Kwinana and other metropolitan areas were also affected by the increased truck traffic, and he urged anyone affected to join the rally.

He said the economics of this issue were simple.

"If the Government wants to talk numbers, we have all the evidence here to show that the Tier 3 lines need to be re-opened," he said.

Mr Richards is calling on the Government to respond to the recently released Economics and Industry Standing Committee Report on the Management of WA's rail freight network.

He said the rally would be a critical turning point for rural communities, particularly in the Tier 3 regions.

"We need to do something before Parliament goes into recess for the summer," he said.

"Here in rural WA, we are going to be facing all of the trauma of losing our rail system while the politicians are enjoying themselves on holidays."

But Mr Richards said while the Government appeared to be motivated by dollars and cents, road safety issues couldn't be ignored, regardless of their cost.

"While the politicians are enjoying their summer break, we will be experiencing the risks of the extra trucks on our roads, the extra damage to our roads and who knows what accidents might happen in that time frame," he said.

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