Tier 3 funding confusion

Rueben HaleThe West Australian

A Government split on Tier 3 rail funding has led to widespread industry confusion.

Last week, Transport Minister Dean Nalder stated unequivocally the State Government would not contribute funding to the Tier 3 railway network.

Mr Nalder told stakeholders CBH and Brookfield, along with other relevant groups, that industry needed to work collaboratively to agree on a commercially viable price for long-term sustainability of the network.

But the WA Nationals seem to have muddied the waters by reaffirming its willingness to potentially fund Tier 3 lines at the same time.

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The Nationals said the money could come from $75 million Royalties for Regions infrastructure fund.

In a statement provided to _Countryman _, the Nationals said the party's leader Terry Redman confirmed the funding would be made available dependent on a robust business case being provided to the State Government from relevant parties.

Negotiations between CBH and Brookfield began late last month and if no agreement is reached after 90 days, an arbitrator will be appointed to determine access costs. The arbitrator's decision is binding on Brookfield, but not on CBH.

The Government has so far refused to intervene to reopen lines known as Tier 3 which closed last year, despite the findings of a parliamentary committee which criticised oversight of Brookfield's 49-year lease over the State-owned freight network.

Brookfield and CBH have been miles apart in negotiations on a long-term access deal and are now entering unchartered territory in terms of the code.

Wheatbelt Railway Retention Alliance president Greg Richards said growers in the 22 shires the group represented were now utterly confused about what the State Government's actual Tier 3 funding position is.

"How can Mia Davies, Terry Redman and Colin Holt all sit in Cabinet as ministers of the WA State Government and pretend they have an independent funding policy on Tier 3, to that of the Transport Minister," he said.

"And Brookfield Rail seems to have wasted little time in clutching onto Mr Nalder's refusal to fund Tier 3, using it as an excuse to increase the access fees paid by CBH.

"One would have to question whether the Nationals have a genuine desire to see grain put back on rail or they're just playing politics on the issue."

"The Premier needs to state clearly what the Government's correct policy position is."

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