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Friday, 2 August 1946

In war, there are two main factors regarding railway traffic: -

(a)   the inevitable concentration of mili tary traffic;

(b)   the priority this traffic commands.

The disabilities imposed by nonstandardization fall under three headings -

(a)   Transfer stations.

(b)   Differences in capacity of rolling stock.

(c)   Inflexibility.

The need to transfer from one system to another imposes delay and, for example,in the case of large airframes, may even prohibit movement by rail because multi-handling of bulky fragile stores is bound to result in unacceptable damage. On the average, this delay amounts to one hour for passengers and one day for goods at each transfer station. Where large-scale military movements are involved, those delays can be serious.

Transfer stations entail additional staff and equipment. The staff used for transferring goods during the recent warhas amounted at times to 2,000 men. Extensive sidings and other equipment have been provided; some of these will remain throughout peace-time, but in the event of another war, others would have to be re-established.

Of more significance is the duplication of service installations imposed by breaks of gauge, and the vulnerability of the transfer stations which require special defence precautions.

Breaks in gauge make for uneconomical use of locomotives, waggons and man-power. Late running of trains aggravates this waste.

At transfer stations, goods are exposed to damage and pilferage.

It is rarely possible to transfer directly the whole load of a railway waggon to a waggon of an adjacent system of different gauge. This is due to the differences in the dimensions and the carrying capacities of waggons. Furthermore, there is often a difference in the power of locomotives, leading to variations in the load that can be hauled.

Thesedisabilities are of great significance where military traffic is concerned, because they rule out the use of pack trains, i.e., military trains of standard composition, which . is the normal method of military supply by rail. Furthermore, services' consignments are liable to be separated at. transfer stations, e.g., goods loaded together in Melbourne for Cairns, and possibly for shipment overseas, may arrive not only in different waggons, but in different trains, and part may miss the ship. The preparation of documents for such split consignments is complicated and laborious.

With non-standardization, there can be no common pool of locomotives and rolling-stock from which to meet emergencies. This inflexibility is serious,as in war there is a greatly increased demand reaching peaks in different areas at various times.

The population from which the bulk of

Australian militia forces must be drawn will be located in peace in the areas of densest population. These areas are mostly far removed from the parts most exposed to enemy action. Should, therefore, Australia be threatened with invasion, considerable movement of troops and material will be necessary over long distances, and these movements may necessarily be concurrent. For example, presuming that the permanent forces have moved to their war stations at an earlier stage, strategic concentration might involve the movement of major formations from the south-east to the west and to the north.

A Comparison in Time. recent computation of the times taken to move troops by rail over long distances shows that, with standardization, the time required for themovement of a major formation is approximately one-third of that required under existing conditions.

Effect of Partial Standardization on Pool of Rolling-stock. .

Some improvement over present conditions would result if only the " military trunk routes" were converted to standard gauge, but to provide, say, sixteen trains a day over great distances for appreciable periods, considerable resources of locomotives and rollingstock are needed, and it is unlikely that such resources would exist if standardization were restricted to the military trunk routes.

Standardization of lines other than the military trunk routes would be of direct benefit by providing a pool of standard locomotives and rolling-stock for emergency movements on a large scale, by enabling the development of substitute routes in the event of loss of the main routes by enemy action, and by facilitating the deployment of the forces.

Standardization, resulting in the' increased speed of movement, may prove an' important factor in the defence of Australia.

After a full examination of the facts, the Commonwealth Government has come to the conclusion that the standardization and modernization of our railway systems is an essential defence work. Whilst the project is advanced by the Commonwealth primarily as being necessary for .defence purposes, it cannot be overlooked that the economic gains resultant from the adoption of uniformity in gauges and railway equipment, would be tremendous. One of the essential features of transport is that its charges must -be kept as low as. possible, and in this respect railway traffic has definite advantages over others, with the exception of sea transport. Each form of transport, whether it be by rail, air, road or sea, has. its place in the nation's economy, and it is hoped that the Australian Transport Advisory Council will exercise due influence in developing each form, in its proper sphere. The State Ministers for Transport have indicated, their whole-hearted co-operation with, the Commonwealth in the achievement of this objective, and it is hoped that the plans, now being prepared will lead to a better utilization of the various forms of transport ' and so end " cutthroat " competition.

Standardization of railways, coupled with modernization, will enable the number of types of locomotives, passenger rolling stock and goods vehicles, to be reduced considerably. We now have 143 types of locomotives, 456 types of passenger vehicles, and 766 types of goods cars. It will be readily appreciated that' by producing fewer types of modern locomotives and rolling-stock, it would be possible to develop mass-production which would lead to considerable economy in production and maintenance.

Advantages to defence and civilian traffic may be briefly summarized as' follows : - Standardization will obviate the necessity for changing trains at present break-of-gauge points, thus eliminating delay in the transfer of passengers and goods, as well as the labour involved therein ; and enable rolling stock to be used on all lines, which would : - (1.) allow of the most economical use of the available rolling stock, by using it for through journeys, thus avoiding congestion, and sometimes empty back-running from break-of-gauge points. (2.) Facilitate repair and replacement, since all railway workshops, foundries, &c. in thiseveral States would use standard parts. Repair and replacement of rolling stock would bt speedier, cheaper, and less liable to interruption by enemy, attack, owing to the wide dispersal of the workshops. (3.) Facilitate the marshalling of trains for strategic and tactical moves, as a result of the interchangeability of rolling stock. (4.) Allow of the employment of standard trains in all States for service purposes, thus facilitat-ing staff work and administration generally.

Sir HaroldClapp's report on standardization was presented to the Government in March, 1945, and steps were taken immediately to open negotiations with the

State governments to ascertain their views on the subject. After a Conference of Transport Ministers in May. 1945j the Conference of Commonwealth and' State Ministers in August of the same year, resolved, inter alia -

That the- conference declares that the work . of standardizing Australia's railway gauges- ' should be proceeded with as being essential to national defence and development.

The matter was again submitted to the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers in January, 1946, when it was decided that the Commonwealth would bear half of the cost of the work, and that the mainland States would share the remainder on a per capita basis. Negotiations .with the States were continued in order to work out the details of an agreement. Whilst a great deal of progress was made, the negotiations finally broke down because of the objections to certain sections of the proposals by representatives, of Queensland and Western Australia. At a conference of the Commonwealth and State Transport Ministers in May this ye'ar, when it was' apparent that no further progress could be made towards the completion of an agreement to include all the States, I announced that I would recommend to the Commonwealth

Government that negotiations should continue with the States prepared to cooperate. Having obtained the approval of the Commonwealth Government to this recommendation, I proceeded to confer with the Premiers of Victoria and South Australia on the conversion of their railway system to the 4-ft. 8-i-in. gauge. Agreement was reached on all points, and the proposals were then submitted to the New South Wales Government. That Government, which has throughout the negotiations been most co-operative, agreed to the draft plan, including payment of its share on a ' 'per capita basis of half of the cost involved in standardizing the railway gauges of Victoria and South Australia and the Broken Hill-Cockburn line . in New South Wales, and in the construction of a new line from Bourke to Barringun. This general agreement between the Commonwealth and the three States mentioned was- the subject of further .detailed discussion, which resulted in the agreement now before the Parliament.

It is to be regretted that Queens- land and Western Australia are riot included in this plan, and it should be made clear that that is not the fault of the Commonwealth. The door is still open for further negotiations with both States, and it is hoped that they will recognize before long the necessity for, and the advantages of, the adoption of a standard gauge. . In the meantime, in the case of Western Australia, the survey of the Kalgoorlie-Fremantle line, which was commenced some time ago as a result of financial assistance afforded by the Commonwealth, will not be interrupted.

The scheme of administration provided by the agreement is that the general control and supervision' of the work will be entrusted to a board consisting of a directorgeneral, a director of mechanical engineering, a director of civil engineering, a director of transportation, and a director of finance. The board and each member will act in the closest collaboration with the State railway authorities, who will carry out, on behalf of the Commonwealth, the work on projects to be approved by the board in accordance with the agreement. To obviate any undue delay arising from, differences of opinion between the States, and between the States and the board, provision is made for a railways council consisting of the Commonwealth Minister for Transport, the Minister administering the Commonwealth Railways, the Minister for Transport, New South Wales, the Minister for Transport, Victoria, and .the Minister for Railways, South Australia. It will be observed that provision is made that any question arising as to the order in which the standardization works are to be carried out shall be determined by agreement between the Commonwealth and the States. The general procedure will provide that the States shall requisition the Commonwealth for authority to proceed with certain works to a specified amount, and if such works and the amount applied for are reasonable and in accordance with the agreement, a project order will be issued and the necessary finance will be made available. A further provision to ensure that standard plans and designs shall be established is contained in the agreement, and in such eases the States and- the Commonwealth collectively will determine such standards. In brief, the agreement is framed on the broad basis of full co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States and on the maximum degree of collaboration between the experts of the Commonwealth and the States to ensure that everything essential to the establishment of standard-gauge railways and to their safe and efficient operation shall be accomplished.

Regarding the financing of the profit, the early negotiations disclosed that the States, whilst appreciating the necessity for standardizing railway gauges, were reluctant to accept the responsibility for providing funds for a project which was primarily designed to meet defence needs, a 'though its economic advantages were fully recognized. It should be understood that in this agreement the basis of finance agreed upon at the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers in January, 1946, has beer maintained, and-the States of New South Wales,' Victoria and South Australia have not sought any material departure from it. At no stage was it argued by the Commonwealth that the standardization of railway gauges would be pressed to the detriment of other great national works, such as housing, and water conservation, to which expenditure the States are already committed. Consequently, the Commonwealth agreed to an arrangement to finance the undertaking which would minimize the burden on the States - particularly in the early years. It should be realized, moreover, that the States had already determined upon large programmes of railway rehabilitation works, and these may now be put in hand with a full knowledge that the funds for standardization will be available and thus enable all the work to be co-ordinated, and thereby the maximum advantage to the nation will be achieved.

The principal features of the financial provisions are as follows : -

(a)   Total cost for the complete plan for New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia is £50,870,696.

(b)   The cost of new locomotives and. rolling stock is debited 25 per cent. to standardization funds and 75 per cent. to the State concerned.

(c)   The cost of standardization is shared equally by the Commonwealth and by the States.

(d)   The States' contribution will be made in annual paymentsextending over 50 years.

(e)   The cost of related works - e.g., works which, although related, are not caused by standardization, are borne by the State concerned.

(f)   The States' share of standardization works is distributed over the three States on a per capita basis of population determined annually in accordance with the Statistician's figures.

(g)   The cost of the north-south line is to be borne by the Commonwealth.

The railway officers, both Commonwealthand State have a very heavy responsibility to undertake in carrying out the projects set out in the agreement. They have earned our appreciation of their splendid war effort, and we look to them again to prove that this great task is not beyond them. I commend the bill to the House, and trust that the

Parliaments of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia will not delay in passing complementary legislation to ratify the agreement, so that immediate steps may be taken to commence this great national work, which means so much to the future welfare, safety and prosperity of Australia and its people.

Debate (on motionby Mr. Harrison) adjourned.

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