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Thursday, 28 August 1980
Page: 954

Mr PORTER (Barker) - I will make just two passing comments on the speech of the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris). Initially, he complained about the delay in the undertaking of the work on the new standard gauge line from Adelaide to Crystal Brook. I think the crux of the matter really shows the difference between the Labor Party and the Liberal Party. In 1974, the project as proposed by the honourable member for Shortland had an estimated cost of $146m in 1976 prices, compared with $68m at 1980 prices for the standard gauge line proposed in this Bill. So nearly a cool $80m is being saved without taking into account the different dates of the prices. The saving obviously will be more than that.

The honourable member's second point really was just scare tactics when he suggested that the undertakings by the Australian National Railways and the Minister for Transport (Mr Hunt) regarding the employment of the men on the line were not sufficient. The undertakings regarding employment have been quite specific. Both the Minister and ANR have made it clear from the inception of this project that no employee will be retrenched.

I return to the Bill. I quote very briefly the remarks of the Chairman of the Australian National Railways Commission, Mr Keith Smith. He said recently:

Rail is, let there be no doubt, far more efficient than road over distances greater than 300 km, and this distance criteria will reduce significantly over the next few years.

He went on to say:

Rail uses less than half as much energy as road to carry twice as much freight.

This makes it clear, I believe, that as rail becomes more competitive and more people try to use it, we will need an efficient, up-to-date integrated railway system. Firstly, I think we ought to look at the system as it is today. If we look at a railway map of Australia we will see that it shows quite clearly the different gauges which apply in the different States. In Victoria and South Australia the broad gauge is predominant while in Queensland and Western Australia the narrow gauge is predominant. New South Wales has the standard gauge and there are standard gauge connections from Sydney to Brisbane, Sydney to Melbourne and Sydney to Port Augusta in South Australia and on to Perth. With that system obviously there are enormous difficulties with rail rolling stock going inter-State as it has to change its bogies. Clearly, there is a need to standardise the rail system. I might add that this need was brought home to me recently when manufacturers in my electorate had to limit output in their industries because of the lack of rail transport, which was to some extent due to delays in bogie exchanges, delays which would be eliminated by the standardisation of the system. In the past the various rail standardisation agreements have enabled the progressive standardisation of nonstandard gauge railway lines in Australia in order to overcome the inefficiencies of break of gauge situations and optimise railway operations. In continuation of this policy the project which is the subject of this Bill provides a connection of the Adelaide metropolitan area to the Australian standard gauge railway system at Crystal Brook.

The project is the result of a number of Australian National Railways investigations and the final plan will mean the construction of approximately 40 kilometres of new standard gauge main line and the conversion of approximately 160 kilometres of existing Adelaide to Port Pirie broad gauge main line. During the construction period, it is estimated that 300 jobs will be created directly in South Australia and another 450 generated in supporting activities. These jobs will be distributed between the Australian National Railways forces and South Australian and interstate contractors and manufacturers.

The project entails the conversion of the existing broad gauge line between Salisbury and Merriton to standard gauge, Merriton being a place just south of Crystal Brook. The new standard gauge connections will be constructed from Merriton to Crystal Brook and from Salisbury to Keswick. Connections will also be provided from Port Adelaide to Pooraka. New passenger facilities will be established at Keswick. At present the schedule is for some standard gauge services by mid- 1982 and the completion of the work by mid-1984.

Mr Chapman - What about an extension to Lonsdale?

Mr PORTER - I am sure the Government would consider an extension to Lonsdale to take care of the important industries in the honourable member for Kingston's electorate. ANR believes that the completion of the project will enable it to advance the achievement of its corporate aim of commercial viability before 1987-88. It may well advance that by two years. If this is so, it could mean that ANR's reliance on the Commonwealth Government for funding of its deficit may come to an end. If that did happen, I think there is a great deal that could be done with that money which will amount to about $60m this year. For example, it could be used to continue the new Tarcoola-Alice Springs standard gauge to Darwin.

The project, which is the subject of this Bill, eliminates bogie exchange, gantry crane or manual transfer of virtually all traffic between Adelaide and Perth, Adelaide and Alice Springs and Adelaide and Sydney via Broken Hill. This will save an average of 27 hours on the AdelaidePerth and Adelaide-Sydney routes. That is an enormous saving which I believe has very great significance for South Australians and in fact all Australians.

Let me explain some of the problems which have arisen in my electorate. The solution of the types of problems to which I refer has application to the whole of Australia. As I said earlier, the shortage of rail transport has put limitations on output from manufacturers and primary producers in my area. These people were not able to get enough rail wagons to transport their goods to the eastern State markets. The wagons were being held up in bogie exchanges and in Sydney and Melbourne railway systems. It then became very clear to me that the longer a railway wagon takes to get from A to B or the longer it is held up at either end means the fewer trips it can make. Clearly, to increase the efficiency of the railway system it is necessary to get rid of or minimise these delays in order to get the maximum use out of our railway wagons. Therefore, arrangements were made to increase the incentive for those holding wagons in Sydney and Melbourne to despatch them. This example shows that we need to plan ahead for a change in people's demands for transport and also to ensure that the system is efficient.

This standard gauge connection to Adelaide will mean a reduction in the time taken by a wagon going to Perth or Sydney by about 27 hours, and that is a great saving. Also this proposal includes a new bogie exchange facility at Dry Creek. This should be completed by mid- 1982 and it will considerably reduce the time taken to change bogies on rail wagons from towns and factories in my electorate such as Millicent and Mount Gambier. It will also reduce the time taken on the Melbourne-Perth line. Perhaps I can just explain that. As I said earlier the railway lines in Victoria and most of South Australia are broad gauge. Therefore any traffic going from Melbourne to Perth, for example, through Adelaide has to have a change of bogie in Adelaide. Similarly, the bogies on traffic going from anywhere in my electorate into Adelaide and then on- to the eastern States or Perth have to be changed from broad gauge to standard gauge. All of this takes time and holds up the wagons. This adds to the inefficiency of the use of the rolling stock.

Mr Chapman - It shows up very well on the map.

Mr PORTER - It does indeed. What does this saving of time taken to transport from or through Adelaide mean? I have already outlined the increase in efficiency in the use of railway rolling stock. But it will also have a more direct effect on the livestock industry in the north of South Australia and the Northern Territory. For example, the journey from Adelaide to Alice Springs will be reduced from five days to a little over two days on the completion of the Tarcoola to Alice Springs railway line which I understand will be opened in October of this year. The travelling time will be further reduced to about 30 hours at the completion of the standardisation of the Adelaide to Crystal Brook railway which is the subject of this Bill. This means that cattle from the north will not need to be transferred. There will not be as much bruising or the need for spelling so that stock will arrive in a much better condition in the Adelaide markets.

As far as Adelaide and South Australia are concerned, our vehicle manufacturing industry, our white goods industries and our other manufacturers will have access to more efficient rail transport by which they will be able to obtain their inputs from the eastern States and send their finished products to the eastern or western State markets.

Mr Chapman - Motor vehicles are very important.

Mr PORTER - Motor vehicles are very important to the South Australian economy. More than that, the new line will enhance the prospects of the natural resources development in the north of South Australia as developers will have much more economic routes to Redcliff or Adelaide or to markets further afield. I might add that proposals are under discussion to extend the line to Outer Harbour so companies such as the Western Mining Corporation Ltd, which is concerned with the Roxby Downs project, will have access to Adelaide's port facilities. Roxby Downs is about 60 kilometres from the railway line up near Woomera. I do not know the intentions of the Western Mining Corporation Ltd in relation to the mine at Roxby Downs but I am sure that the new railway line will be of great assistance to it. Of course, the availability of this transport route could influence further exploration or development in the north of South Australia.

Discussion of the connection of Adelaide to a common rail gauge which links Adelaide with all the mainland State capitals overlooks the further extension of the line to Alice Springs and on to Darwin. The arguments for a Darwin-Alice Springs-Adelaide Tail link are numerous. Adelaide for a long time has been a major supplier of food, materials, men and expertise to Darwin and the Northern Territory and clearly a rail link would facilitate an increase in such trade. There has been talk of Darwin becoming a northern port. There has been talk of the need on defence grounds for a rail link. There has been a joint CommonwealthNorthern Territory review of the Darwin-Alice Springs rail link. Whilst I am unaware of the economic research which has been done on the viability of such a line, I believe that at least at first glance it seems to be a proposal worthy of support.

It seems to me that the railways, and ANR in particular, are going through a period of fundamental change and updating. ANR has been set the task to reduce its deficit and it is starting to do just that. Instead of an ever increasing call on the taxpayer for funds, it is becoming more efficient. This has meant that some very hard decisions have had to be made. In country areas of South Australia lines and some sidings have been closed. The people affected by those changes have been extremely good about it. In most cases, alternative arrangements have been made for mail and parcel deliveries and for larger wagon load freight. In some instances it is not possible to close rail links or rail lines where there are no reasonable alternative links or where other factors override the financial costs - for example, the social cost. It ought to be borne in mind that the people affected by such decisions often live in small, relatively isolated communities such as those in the Mallee area of my electorate. They do not have access to all the alternative forms of transport or communication that is available to most Australians. I said a moment ago that ANR is undertaking a period of fundamental change. Let me refer to a few examples where it is clear that we will have to pay some attention to the needs of the service if it is to continue to serve its purpose efficiently. I refer again to the remarks of the Chairman of ANR, Mr Keith Smith. He stated:

The section of line between Adelaide and the Victorian border is the most heavily used on the ANR system. The Overland' passenger train between Melbourne and Adelaide is rapidly gaining a reputation as the 'overdue' train because of its regular late running.

One of the principal causes of delay on the 'Overland' is the inadequate crossing loops for the large freight trains which now run on the single-line track. Freight trains have increased enormously in size and many of the crossing loops built between twenty and thirty years ago can no longer accommodate them. On every night of the week, the 'Overland' has to work a path through three or four jet freight trains operating in both directions, as well as the Victorian intra-state train also using the mainline.

If the Australian Railways standardisation programme is to continue, the standardisation of the Adelaide-Melbourne mainline or the provision of a third rail for mixed-gauge operations must be given a high priority.

Mr Smithconcluded:

Alternatively, we might well consider surveying an entirely new route for a standard-gauge tine, well away from the broad-gauge lines that currently feed into the main AdelaideMelbourne link.

The importance of the problem was outlined by Mr Smith in what he said there and it is a problem that Australia must face. I congratulate the Government for the foresight it has shown in introducing this legislation which will enable Adelaide to be linked to the standard gauge system. I see it as a first step towards the upgrading of a mode of transport which I believe will become more important as we progress into this decade of the 1980s.

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