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Tuesday, 14 May 1985
Page: 1881


Senator RYAN —Last week Senators Vigor and Bolkus asked questions about the reduction in rail services in South Australia. I have information for those senators which I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The document read as follows-

AN-REDUCTION IN SERVICES IN SOUTH AUSTRALIA

Before answering the specific questions concerning the Australian National Railways Commission's (AN's) plans, it is worth making a number of general observations regarding the performance of Australian railways

losses of all Australian rail systems will total almost $1 billion in 1984-85

that is, almost $3m per day of tax payers money is used to fund losses on Australian railways

in AN's case, the Federal Government has contributed over $711m to fund AN's operating losses since 1975-76

in 1984-85 $87.9m has been allocated.

It is clear that the performance of railways must improve and that changes must take place so that railways can meet fierce competition and deliver services to discriminating customers with other transport options

in that respect this Government has already taken a number of initiatives

in a national sense, this Government has pursued establishment of a Railway Industry Council with representation from State and Federal Governments, rail management and unions

the Minister has endorsed and encouraged establishment of a National Freight Group by the Railways of Australia Committee to co-ordinate and promote intersystem traffic

with respect to its own railway, AN, this Government is taking action to ensure that it becomes a more competitive and commercially oriented organisation

in that regard, this Government passed legislation which provides AN with the framework to enable it to react more quickly to the demands of the market place

while at the same time being properly accountable to the Parliament for its performance

the amount of the subsidy paid to AN has already been reduced from $106m in 1982-83 to $87.9m in 1984-85

the Government has also provided $16m to AN to fund on Early Retirement Scheme to accelerate reduction of surplus staff through voluntary means.

Unions can improve job opportunities in the long term by contributing to a viable and efficient railway system.

Any proposed action can not be taken overnight

the agreement reached when SA transferred its rail services to the Commonwealth provides for independent arbitration should the State object to any proposed reduction or cessation of services

this process of arbitration allows ample scope for all interested parties to provide their views.

With respect to AN's intrastate passenger services, as the General Manager and the Chairman of the Commission have confirmed, AN's plans to cease these services except Adelaide-Mt Gambier are well known

because of continuing losses incurred and poor patronage

reality is that transport operators already offer a cheaper and better service.

The Minister is advised by AN that suggestions that AN is proposing to cease its freight services are totally misleading

at this stage AN propose to phase out less than car load (LCL) traffic which is only a very minor part of its freight operations

Total AN's financial information shows that significant savings could be achieved by ceasing to carry LCL

suggestions that immediate closure of services is planned is unfounded. As I noted earlier, full consultation, including negotiations with State government and arbitration, if necessary, would take place.

AN needs to become more competitive

to provide efficient services to its customers

and to reduce the contribution taxpayers makes to its losses

all sections of AN's workforce can assist their long-term security by working towards greater productivity.