Rally for the rail line

Rueben HaleThe West Australian
Angry farmers rally at Parliament House.
Camera IconAngry farmers rally at Parliament House. Credit: The West Australian

Frustrated Wheatbelt farmers have shown they're growing impatient with the State Government after storming the steps of Parliament on Tuesday and demanding the immediate reopening of Tier 3 rail lines.

WAFarmers and the Wheatbelt Railway Retention Alliance have called on the Government to immediately act on Recommendations 19 and 20 of a damning parliamentary committee report into the State Government and Public Transport Authority's handling of the State's freight rail network.

All Tier 3 lines closed on June 30 this year, leaving growers in affected areas with no option than to transport this year's expected bumper grain harvest on crumbling country roads.

"WAFarmers and the WRRA call for the State Government to take urgent action on the current state of the rail lease agreement with Brookfield Rail, warning the State Government will receive an annual invoice of more than $2 million in order for farmers to recover additional fees," the groups said in a joint statement.

WRRA and WAFarmers are also requesting the Government invest $202 million to improve local government roads, which is the balance of the $320 million outlined in the Strategic Grain Network Report.

"It's been more than one month since the Economics and Industry Standing Committee tabled its report and so far the Government has failed to adequately respond," WAFarmers president Dale Park said.

"The delay is costing individual farmers thousands of dollars in additional freight fees, putting their businesses and livelihoods on the line, as well as the safety of thousands of road users in jeopardy as they face thousands of additional road movements on regional roads, which have not been maintained to a reasonable standard."

WRRA chairman Greg Richards said the State Government needed to respond to the committee report's conclusion that the lease agreement was not in the State's or growers' interests.

"The findings of the parliamentary inquiry have validated what Wheatbelt growers had suspected all along and yet we still have a Government that seems to be unprepared to take action," he said.

"We ask the Government show some strength on this issue and stop hiding behind the Strategic Grain Network Report, which has been found to be obsolete."

However, speaking exclusively to _Countryman _ at the rally, Transport Minister Dean Nalder said the Government intended to respond to the report by no later than January 14.

Mr Nalder said it was incorrect for WAFarmers and CBH to say Government recommendations based on the Strategic Grain Network Report were now erroneous.

"The SGNR recommendations that were made to Government were to fund roads based on the recommendations and those recommendations are still being finalised now," he said.

"We will make sure that we respond to the report, but in the meantime we will encourage CBH and Brookfield to reach a resolution as quickly as possible to provide some certainty about what is going on.

"But I can assure you that the Government remains supportive of Tier 3 lines remaining open where they can be proven to be commercially viable and we'll stand by that.

"But we need them to reach that resolution as quickly as possible."

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