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Monday, 11 August 2003
Page: 13136

Senator Nettle asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport and Regional Services, upon notice, on 5 June 2003:

(1) What are the reasons for the length of time taken for the Federal Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) and the Federal Government to reach agreement with the New South Wales Government in regard to leasing New South Wales interstate rail track for 60 years in exchange for various commitments, including an investment package of $870 million on the interstate rail network over 5 years.

(2) Of the $870 million, how much of the figure is actually budgeted for in: (a) the 2002-03 Federal Budget; and (b) the 2003-04 Federal Budget.

(3) Is the Commonwealth prepared to lift its actual financial contribution to the investment package in order to secure an agreement: (a) if not, why not; and (b) if so, is it prepared to consider funding at the level of the Keating Government's 1992 to 1995 rail capital works program of approximately $450 million.

(4) Is the Commonwealth prepared to fund advanced planning of major rail deviations between Junee and Campbelltown in a manner similar to long-standing Commonwealth full funding of advanced planning of major national highway system deviations.

(5) What projects are in the present $870 million package that are additional to the work identified in the ARTC track audit's $507 million package.

Senator Ian Macdonald (Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation) —The Minister for Transport and Regional Services has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) The Australian Rail Track Corporation lease proposal of the NSW mainline tracks is complex. It involves commercially and politically sensitive issues, which require detailed analysis and consideration by stakeholders.

(2) (a) and (b) An amount of $143.4 million has been included in the 2003-04 Budget.

(3) The negotiations between the Commonwealth/ Australian Rail Track Corporation and New South Wales are being conducted on the basis of the announced funding of $872milion.

(4) Advanced planning of rail corridors would be eligible for consideration under the Government's proposed AusLink Programme.

(5) Projects to be funded from the $870 million proposed package are consistent with the Australian Rail Track Corporation Interstate Rail Network Audit and include:

- the construction of a new Southern Access Corridor into Sydney from Macarthur to Chullora;

- upgrades to the Hunter Valley rail system;

- rail and foundation strengthening, bridge replacement, and re-sleepering to improve the condition of the core rail infrastructure and reduce ongoing maintenance costs;

- improvements to train control, signalling and safe working systems to improve the safety and efficiency of rail operations by investing in new technology and replacing outmoded equipment and systems; and

- new and extended crossing loops to enable trains of up to 1,500 metres in length to operate on the north-south corridor.