Eric Charlton

Eric Charlton

Former Minister for Transport

    National body set up to co-ordinate planning of high-speed freight corridor

    27/02/1998 12:00 AM



    Transport Minister Eric Charlton said today his push of a high-speed freight corridor across Australia had moved a step closer with the establishment of a national body to co-ordinate planning and track upgrade.


    "Things have progressed rapidly following last September's National Rail Summit, which I initiated, and I am confident that this country will finally get a genuine high-speed freight corridor across the continent," Mr Charlton said.


    "The formation of the Australian Rail Track Corporation will provide the impetus to get the task completed and establish a one-stop shop to co-ordinate operators wanting to use the upgraded interstate line.


    "The new corporation chaired by Kenneth Baxter, who has a strong background in the Australian rail industry, is already focussing on the key issues of track upgrade and access to the system by various operators."


    Other members of the board were Ms Vanessa Fanning, who has diverse experience in public and private sector freight transport; and Richard Balderstone, a business analyst.


    Mr Charlton said that access to the interstate network had proved to be a nightmare in the past with operators on the east-west line having to go through up to 13 regulators.


    Operators had to seek approval from up to 17 authorities before getting clearance for new types of rolling stock.


    "There is a new national vision in rail and Western Australia stands to become a major beneficiary from a high-speed transcontinental track capable of carrying 1,800m-long freight trains at average speeds in excess of 100kph," the Minister said.


    "The high-speed corridor will open up a variety of opportunities for WA, including the chance for us to become a freight gateway for the rest of the nation.


    "The Government has provided the opportunity for the private sector to build, own and operate a new seaport on the western terminus of the east-west standard gauge line at Naval Base/Kwinana which could capitalise on the upgraded track.


    "It does not need much imagination to see double-stacked containers moving at high-speed across the continent through a west coast gateway."


    Mr Charlton said that an audit of the standard guage line was under way to establish final estimates for track upgrade.


    The Federal Government had committed $250 million towards rejunevating and streamlining the east-west rail link from Brisbane to Kwinana over four years, but the issue of further funding by the Commonwealth needed to be addressed as a matter of urgency.


    Initial estimates put the total cost of establishing the high-speed corridor at $1 billion.


    WA had already identified that $175 million would be needed to upgrade the standard gauge track between Kalgoorlie and Kwinana.


    Media contact: Doug Cunningham 9321 7333