The State Government has given the go-ahead for the second phase of a major reform of land freight transport policy.
The move follows deregulation measures outlined in the Government's economic strategy, the WA Advantage, earlier this year.
The latest changes centered on making Westrail more commercial to ensure there was competition between the road and rail sectors.
The changes also focused on ensuring future land transport infrastructure was developed on a co-ordinated basis.
The moves were based on recommendations of a review of land freight transport policy by the Department of Transport.
Mrs Beggs emphasised the changes were designed to improve the efficiency and accountability of Westrail and to keep the rail authority at the forefront of railway performance in Australia.
The measures included:
· establishing a board of directors for Westrail;
· identifying and removing aspects of public ownership that put Westrail at an advantage or disadvantage to its competitors in the private sector;
· rationalising Westrail's services so they became more commercial.
Mrs Beggs said deregulation of the land freight system in the past nine years had saved freight transport users more than $60 million a year. Savings to the taxpayer through reduced rail deficits were more than $40 million a year.
"For example, between 1980-81 and 1989-90, real rail freight rates fell 63 per cent for general goods, 56 per cent for wool, 40 per cent for fertiliser and 34 per cent for grain," she said.
"Road rates also fell by similar amounts in the same period reflecting improved productivity in the road transport industry."
Mrs Beggs said deregulation of minor bulk traffic and fuel as part of the WA Advantage strategy had meant changes also were needed to enable Westrail to improve its competitive position.
"Westrail's achievements in the past 10 years have made it the leader of Australian rail authorities in terms of efficiency and productivity," she said.
"It is important that Westrail be allowed to continue to build on these gains through greater commercialisation.
"The moves endorsed by Cabinet following the review will achieve this aim as well as resulting in further savings to taxpayers of around $5 million a year."
Mrs Beggs said that while some positions within Westrail would become surplus to operational requirements, there would be no forced retrenchments. All staff reductions would be through natural attrition, redeployment and retraining and if necessary, voluntary severance.
She said the implementation program for the changes would involve discussion with rail unions and local councils.
Mrs Beggs also released the land freight transport policy review report.
Copies were available from the Department of Transport, 136 Stirling Highway, Nedlands, phone (09) 389 0611.