Tier 3 should be State responsibility: study

Jo FulwoodCountryman
Curtin University student Benjamin Robins.
Camera IconCurtin University student Benjamin Robins. Credit: Countryman

A study into the impacts of the closure of the Tier 3 rail lines has recommended the State Government take financial responsibility for local roads that will now have increased truck movements.

The study, by Curtin University undergraduate student Benjamin Robins, investigated the social, economic and environmental impacts of the closure of the rail line on the communities of Corrigin, Kondinin, Kulin and Lake Grace.

One the study makes is that the responsibility for maintaining these roads be shifted from local governments to the State Government.

The final report states roads with a high frequency of truck movement within a "predetermined period" should be turned over to the State Government to manage.

According to the report, this would reduce the cost burden on local councils.

The study also highlighted the urgent need for intermodal transport planning to arrest the attrition rate currently occurring in Wheatbelt communities.

Survey results from the four communities illustrated that 23 per cent of the population considered moving to larger regional centres or cities

Mr Robins said he undertook the regional planning study to investigate the value of the Tier 3 rail line to the four communities, and the impact of its closure.

"The Tier 3 rail line is such a vital piece of community, economic and social infrastructure which developed the Wheatbelt into what it is today, and to take it away, we really don't know what the impacts will be," he said

Mr Robins said a third recommendation from his report was for the Government to commission a more in-depth study of the social and social-economic implications of the Tier 3 closure on small communities.

"We need to ensure that if the Government is going to make these decisions that it's been appropriately discussed," he said.

"We are not talking about a city that has multiple industries to sustain it, it's vital that we understand the implications from social, economic and environmental grounds, so if we make these long decisions, that they are the right ones."

WA Local Government Association central country zone president and Kulin Shire president Jim Sullivan said his Shire would happily hand over certain roads to the State Government for maintenance.

"But I don't think the State Government would ever agree to this, we are talking about large amounts of funding" he said.

"A lot of extra maintenance is going to have to be picked up by local governments."

Mr Sullivan said the State Government was supposed to fund maintenance through the road funding agreement.

"But there is no extra funding to cover these extra truck movements, and the amount we get now doesn't even cover roads under normal conditions let alone the extra heavy-haulage impacts," he said.

"And it's not just funding, you also have to have the time and personnel to do the work, and I don't think most country shires have this."

Mr Sullivan said the effects of the extra trucks on the roads from the bumper harvest were already having a negative impact on the roads in his shire.

"We've had extra graders on our roads already, with the extra trucks going to the bins because of the big harvest, let along the trucks needed to get the grain out of the bins," he said.

WA Local Government Association president Troy Pickard has called for an assessment of all relevant local roads to quantify their safety, upgrade and maintenance needs.

Mr Pickard said most local roads were not designed for the current grain freight task and to move significant freight onto local roads may have a detrimental effect on the road safety and structural integrity of a road.

"We would expect the State Government to provide the additional funding to meet the identified needs of these roads should they be required to carry out this additional function," he said.

"Although capital and maintenance funding was provided by the State about three years ago when the policy decision was made not to further invest in the Tier 3 Rail Network, a lot more is required if all the Tier 3 rail lines are to be closed.

"Should there be a discussion around transfer of responsibility of these roads to the State, given their change in function, we would then consult with our members to identify their position on this issue."

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