Regional freight strategy identifies upgrades to WA network

The Western Australia state government has released a targeted program of regional freight rail upgrades to get more agricultural freight onto rail.

Rail improvements are suggested in each of the regions studied in the Revitalising Agricultural Regional Freight Strategy (RARF) report, released on Monday, June 29.

These upgrades include rail lines from Perth to Geraldton, Mullewa to Perenjori, Albany to Hyden/Newdegate, and Esperance to Salmon Gums, in addition to rail improvements throughout the Wheatbelt region.

The RARF strategy also recommends a review of the interface agreements for disused Tier 3 rail corridors and the inclusion of rail lines into the National Land Transport Network.

With the strategy now published, the state government will now prepare a submission to Infrastructure Australia for investment in regional freight networks. WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said that the report will guide investment and that work is already underway.

“The RARF Strategy is a blueprint for strategic investment for agricultural infrastructure in our WA regions, underpinning the agricultural sector in our State.

“Work has already started with industry on progressing project packages, with the State Government working with CBH and Arc Infrastructure to progress business cases for Tier 1 and Tier 2 railway packages identified as a priority in this strategy.”

Arc Infrastructure general manager commercial & development, Nathan Speed, said that Arc would work with CBH and the state government to upgrade lines it manages.

“Arc Infrastructure congratulates the Government for the release of the State’s agricultural freight strategy,” he said.

“We look forward to working with Government on these and other projects from RARF that will support the ongoing international competitiveness of WA grain growers, and deliver long-term benefits to the economy and state.”

The report notes that where private or leased infrastructure is concerned, as in the case of WA’s freight rail lines which are leased to Arc Infrastructure, the private sector is expected to lead the development of business cases.

As well as upgrades to track infrastructure, the report highlights the need for intermodal terminals around the network, including on the Avon (Northam) rail corridor, between Perth and Geraldton, Brookton and Northam, and Albany and Hyden/Newdegate.

Based on feedback received on the draft strategy, a more targeted list of projects were included in the final RARF strategy.

Earlier in June, the WA government confirmed it was undertaking an assessment of the cost of reopening the disused Tier 3 grain lines.

“We recognise there is a lot of sentiment around the Tier 3 lines and have commissioned an engineering assessment to advise on the cost and time required for potential rehabilitation,” said Saffioti.

Coinciding with the release of the RARF strategy is the release of the South West Supply Chain Strategy for public comment.

“The draft South West Supply Chain Strategy identifies and prioritises future road, rail, air and port infrastructure requirements in the South-West region and establishes a framework and direction for future freight transport related investment in the region for the next 10-15 years,” said Saffioti.

The report identifies a need for investment in the region’s rail network as strategic locations are approaching operational capacity. In addition, the reconfiguration of rail access to Bunbury Port will allow for the rail infrastructure to meet the needs of bulk exporters. Another area the report identifies as needing investment is the establishment of container rail services between Bunbury and Perth for broader export and domestic market.

To address these challenges, the report cites the need for line duplication, new passing loops, and rail sidings. The report also explores the possibility of a intermodal freight terminal at the Waterloo Industrial Precinct.

Speed said that Arc is working towards getting lithium ore onto rail.

“We continue to collaborate with Talison Lithium and government on the development of the business case for the rail based supply chain from the Greenbushes mine, as outlined in the South West Supply Chain Strategy. We hope to commence detailed project feasibility in late 2020.”