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Thursday, 22 July 1926

Senator GRANT (New South Wales) . - The principal feature of the measure is to provide an additional sum of £500,000 for the construction of the . Grafton to South Brisbane railway. I am not opposed to the additional amount being granted, but I should like further information before I support the second reading of the bill. The unification of the railway gauges of Australia has engaged the attention of the Parliaments of Australia probably more than any other subject, and even now it is doubtful if a tangible commencement has been made, although a number of men are employed on the construction of a line from Grafton to Kyogle. Simultaneously with the construction of the line from Kyogle to South Brisbane, the Government should build a line on the 4-ft. 8½ -in. gauge from Kalgoorlie to Perth. It has always been understood that that work would be undertaken by the Western Australian Government, but as that Government has apparently no intention of doingso, the Commonwealth Government should shoulder the responsibility. The Government should also undertake the construction of a line from Hay to Port Augusta, in order to connect the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge in New South Wales with the line of that gauge now terminating at Port Augusta. In view of the proposal to transfer the Seat of Government to Canberra at an early date, consideration should also be given to the question of continuing the 4-ft8½-in. gauge from Wodonga to Benalla. If that were done, the journey from Melbourne to the Federal Capital would be considerably improved. If that were done, the Victorian members of this Parliament would not show the same reluctance as they now do to the early removal of the Seat of Government to Canberra. I do not know what the cost would be, but it should not be very much. The Government is asking for £4,000,000, all of which is to be expended on construction work between Grafton and South Brisbane. More provision should be made for a great national work of this character. If the Ministry wasin earnest, it would immediately set about the unification of the gauge between Kalgoorlie and Fremantle, and also extend the standard gauge from. Wodonga to Benalla. We all expect that before long the Government will construct a line to connect Canberra with Yass Junction. This work should be undertaken by the

New South Wales Government, but apparently it does not propose to do anything in the matter, so probably it will have to be done by the Federal Government.

Senator McLachlan - It should have been built long ago.

Senator GRANT - It was part of the duty of the New South Wales Government to construct .a line, and I am surprised and disappointed that it has not been done. That connexion, when made, will materially lessen the distance between Melbourne and Canberra. The New South Wales members of the Federal Parliament will, I am sure, be very pleased when they see the first train leaving Canberra with Victorian members on board after the first meeting of Parliament at the Seat of Government. But it would afford them much greater satisfaction if, instead of having to make the journey via Goulburn, they could go direct to Y.ass Junction and join the express there. And if, as I suggest, the standard gauge line is extended as far as Benalla, the train journey between Melbourne and Canberra will be robbed of many of its unpleasant features. 1 hope that the Government, supported as it is by so many South Australian and Victorian members, will give early and favorable consideration to this suggestion. We have been informed that additional provision has to be made for the survey of the line, the acquisition of lands, for rails and fastenings, signalling and interlocking, railway station at South Brisbane, locomotive depot and transhipment station at South Brisbane, railway watering station en route, construction work from South Brisbane station, outside that for which the contract had been let. This accounts for a total extra expenditure in New South Wales .of £112,000, inclusive of provision for a 44-hours week, and in Queensland of £967,000,- or a total of £1,079,000. It would appear that the original estimates of the cost were made on insufficient information, but I fail to see how we can avoid voting the additional sum now required. There is one phase of the subject to which I wish to direct attention. Honorable senators will recollect that a few days ago at Ardglen, on the main northern line in New South Wales, where there is a single-line tunnel, the driver of a goods train lost his life through suffocation, and the fireman was rendered unconscious by fumes in the tunnel. The train was entirely out of control until the fireman recovered consciousness about 2 or 3 miles after the train had emerged from the tunnel. The Railway Council, which has charge of the construction of the Kyogle to South Brisbane line, comprises men of recognized railway ability in Mr. Bell, Commonwealth Railways Commissioner ; Mr. Davidson, Railways Commissioner of Queensland; and Mr. Frazer, Chief Commissioner of Railways in New South Wales. It is unfortunate that they have decided upon the construction of singleline tunnels. It is not too late, even now, for them to review their decision. From every point of view it is a shortsighted policy. We have had convincing evidence of the foolishness of constructing single-line tunnels in New South Wales. There was one infamous tunnel at Otford. It was so dreaded by all drivers and firemen that finally it was scrapped, and a double-line tunnel built alongside it. We have had similar experiences in connexion with many other single-line tunnels in my State. There are now double-line tunnels on the whole of the railway line up to Walarobba. The long tunnel at Woy Woy was built to carry two lines of rails, although only one was laid down. The Government has made provision for the storage of an additional 1,000,000 acre feet in the Hume reservoir, and has taken similar action in connexion with the Cotter river dam at Canberra. The Sydney Harbour bridge has been designed by a man with a vision. It is 169 feet wide. There is provision for several railway and tramway lines, as well as ample room for motor traffic. Nevertheless, it. has been said that if Sydney develops as rapidly in the future as it has of late years, another bridge will be required in the near future. It is extraordinary that in the construction of this line the Government should make provision for only single-line tunnels. The railway will be a very important link between Sydney and Brisbane. It will shorten the distance between Brisbane and Sydney by over 100 miles, so that practically the whole of -the traffic between the two capital cities will be diverted over the shorter route. This traffic will be so heavy that, in all probability, the duplication of the line will be advisable. Consequently, double-line tunnels should be provided now.In my judgment, this decision in favour of single-line tunnels is a fatal mistake. I have endeavoured to ascertain the probable additional cost of double-line tunnels. I am not sure that my figures are correct, but I understand they are not far out. There are three tunnels on the New SouthWales side. One is 250 yards long, another is 198 yards, and the third 1,240 yards, or a total of 1,653 yards. On the Queensland side there are two tunnels, their respective lengths being 226 yards and 462 yards, or a total of 688 yards. The grand total is 2,341 yards. To take the railway over the mountain range the track on the New South Wales side has had to be carried along a spiral, and in the language of the aviators the train loops the loop. As one of the tunnels on the spiral is 1,240 yards long, it is obvious that the train crews and passengers will be seriously inconvenienced whenever there is a following wind, as it will be impossible to ventilate the tunnels properly. I am informed that singleline tunnels cost £150 a lineal yard, making a total of £351,150. Double-line tunnels cost £200 a lineal yard, or a total of £468,200. The difference is only £117,050, which, at 5 per cent., represents £6,000 a year. That sum should not stand in the way of the construction of tunnels which will carry a double line of rails. If at a later date it is decided to duplicate the line, either other single-line tunnels will have to be constructed, or the present single-line tunnels discarded, and double-line tunnels constructed. That would be a wicked and wanton waste of public money. The Government should obtain from its responsible engineers a report as to the extra cost that would be involved. The through and the local traffic warrant the construction of double-line tunnels. They would make for the safety of the employees and thepublic, and the proper working of the traffic. I offer no objection to the expenditure of an additional £500,000. The work is being carried out under the day-labour system in both New South Wales and Queensland, and I have no doubt that it will be done a good deal better and cheaper than if it were carried out under the contract system. I urge the Government to take every step possible to have the true facts placed before honorable senators, so that, if necessary, we can provide whatever additional sum is required to construct tunnels that will carry two lines of rails.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In committee:

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 (Ratification of agreements).

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