Rail Safety National Law Amendment Bill

Mr DULUK (Davenport) (16:29): I would also like to make a contribution on the rail safety national law bill and put on the record that we on this side of the house support the bill. I want to make a few comments on South Australian rail transport and rail infrastructure because, for those who know, they are huge parts of the electorates of Davenport, Waite and Elder and the surrounding areas of the Mitcham Hills.

On a daily basis, the people I represent are affected and impacted by rail in this state. The rail line—that is, the Belair passenger line and the freight line—cuts through the Mitcham Hills, passing thousands of homes and businesses on a daily basis. Taken together with the Cross Road intersection at Hawthorn, about 63,000 vehicles cross the track daily in this section, so we are talking about a bit of rail line that affects tens of thousands of South Australians on a daily basis. Anything
we can do to improve the safety of the rail line for commuters, to improve the efficiency of the rail track for both passenger and freight and anything we can do to increase patronage, especially on our passenger rail service, is very important.

To that extent, I would like to speak about the need for additional park-and-ride facilities in my electorate. The reality is that people will not use public transport if they cannot find a car park close to a station. Of course, as we all know, the use of public transport is vital in reducing road congestion, but it needs to be accessible and an attractive alternative for commuters. There is no point asking commuters in my community to catch the train if that train journey is going to take 40,
45 or 50 minutes in the morning when the alternative is to drive.

If you drive to the Eden Hills train station to catch the train for your morning commute and you have not parked your car by 7.30am, you will not get a car park. Commuters end up turning around and driving down the hill into the city, adding to congestion issues. Just this week, we saw that the ARTC will no longer be making available their portion of land at Eden Hills for car parking, which means that there will be further pressure on the existing department car parking at the Eden Hills train station. If we do not address this issue, we will see fewer people using the Belair service.

Of course, an additional park-and-ride and an expansion of the current park-and-ride stations along the Belair train line are both critically important. I say that especially in relation to Eden Hills and Bellevue Heights. At the 2014 election, the Labor government pledged funding for a scoping study for park-and-ride facilities across various locations in Adelaide, including Bellevue Heights, but so far there has been no action, much to the disappointment of local residents. As I said before, if we want people to use public transport, especially rail transport, we need to provide a service that is accessible and efficient to them.

Another really big concern for my community—and this actually goes to the heart of rail safety—is that of the repeated boom gate failures along the Belair line at Blackwood, Glenalta and Coromandel railway stations, but in particular at the Glenalta station. It is an ongoing issue for residents and commuters. The boom gate failures, which are too many and too frequent, hold up traffic and cause frustration. I am still waiting for a response from the minister about the boom gate failures in late January, which of course closed the Blackwood, Glenalta and Coromandel stations
simultaneously.

It is a risk in an emergency situation. Emergency vehicles have difficulty accessing the Mitcham Hills area and, in the event of an evacuation, the gridlock you would see through my community in the event that the three boom gates were down would just be horrendous. On a too regular basis and, dare I say, even on a monthly basis at the moment, we are seeing boom gate failures on the Belair line.

Governments should plan for the worst and hope for the best. Should the worst ever happen when the boom gates were down, as I said before, it would be truly catastrophic for the Mitcham Hills. Despite that risk—we all know about the risk and hopefully we are now at the back end of the bushfire season, even though there is another month or two to go—the infrastructure continues to be neglected by the government. The government has failed to fix the issue on an ongoing basis
since 2015 when works were started to fix the ongoing signalling issues, but they have not been fixed appropriately.

The government has constantly ignored calls from me, local residents and, of course, a parliamentary committee in 2009 that sought huge investment in the road and rail infrastructure of the Mitcham Hills to ensure that issues like boom gate failures did not occur. We need action and we need to improve the reliability of the level crossing boom gates. There is a petition in my office collecting signatures on this issue for residents of my community. In the first month of the petition running, hundreds of people contacted my office to raise their concerns about the issue of boom gate failures along the Belair line.

As I said before, the rail use through my community is incredible. It is probably one of the biggest rail corridors through suburban Adelaide. It has the Adelaide Metro line, which provides a passenger service, and of course it has a freight line, which is the central corridor of the Melbourne-Adelaide-Perth rail line. That rail freight line causes lengthy delays at all crossings across the line and frustrated commuters are trapped on a daily basis in peak hour bottlenecks.

The cost of traffic congestion in terms of lost productivity and the impact on quality of life is incredible. Of course, that means less time at home with family and friends, more time on the commute and a frustrated worker when they get to work. There are also health concerns for local residents from the noise pollution as a result of the topography of the Adelaide Hills in that it is just not suitable for modern trains. There are steep gradients which, combined with tight corners, emit noise squeal at an intense level.

If you were to design a modern rail freight network, you would not put kilometres of rail freight line through the Adelaide Hills. As I mentioned before, bushfire safety is a constant concern for my community and there are justified fears of freight line derailments, especially on fire danger days.

Freight trains may start a fire from sparks emitted when the freight trains brake heavily on tight curves through the Hills. In February 2014, a fire began in the Belair National Park and it is believed that it was as a result of a freight train.

The other issue with the freight line going through my community and through the Adelaide Hills is that of limited capacity. The Adelaide-Melbourne rail line has served our community since about the 1880s and capacity constraints are going to hit us before we know it. As I said, the tight curves, the steep gradients and the height restrictions along the Adelaide Hills corridor limit our ability to increase the freight load. If we are to become an efficient state again and a state that drives its
economic activity through exports and through our primary producers, then we need to have freight operating efficiently in South Australia.

By 2030, we expect to see a 90 per cent increase in freight capacity going through
South Australia, going to about 10.7 million tonnes. This 10.7 million tonnes is the expected capacity of the freight line, so within a decade we will be hitting capacity for freight movement in South Australia. What we are saying at the moment is that within 10 years we will not be able to improve our economic capacity or our economic growth in terms of freight movement as a result of capacity constraint on our freight lines in particular.

South Australia is at risk of being cut out of interstate freight movement. It would be an absolute shame for this state if providers and operators saw an inability for efficient freight movement through South Australia and created alternative networks. There is a solution to all this, and that is simply to invest in the infrastructure. We need a modern rail network, one that capitalises on improving technology, one that manages increased train speed and load-carrying ability, one that is internationally competitive and a network that can improve end-to-end supply chain efficiencies for
South Australian businesses, exporters and potential investors.

It is not just me and members of the Liberal Party who are talking about this issue at the moment in terms of capacity constraints and the need to do something about it.
This week, Infrastructure Australia released its priority initiatives. It talks about the Melbourne to Adelaide to Perth rail upgrade. On page 104 of that document, it states the problem:
The interstate rail freight network in South Australia comprises links between Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Sydney and Darwin and was identified in the Australian Infrastructure Audit 2015 as a key part of the National Land Transport Network. The track handles 80% of the land-based east-west intercapital freight market and is also utilised by regional mineral and agricultural producers in South Australia.

The track is expected to become capacity constrained over the next 10-15 years due to steady growth in the east-west non-bulk freight task (expected to double by 2030) and future mining and agricultural production. Some sections of track are approaching the end of asset life and have alignments that impose speed and axle load restrictions.

The combination of congestion, poor alignment, and asset age is expected to impact travel times and the reliability and productivity of the interstate freight network. The viability of future mining projects may also be affected.

Those are not my words: they are the words of Infrastructure Australia. They recognise that there needs to be a solution to the rail line that goes through suburban Adelaide, through my community and beyond. Of course, there is an answer: it is called Globe Link. That will remove rail freight from the suburbs and the Hills. There are 41 level crossings along the corridor between Adelaide and
Murray Bridge. Moving rail freight would improve the daily commute of an estimated 135,000 drivers.

It would lead to efficiency gains, as nearly 80 per cent of all rail freight passing through suburban Adelaide is travelling to Perth from Melbourne. It no longer makes sense for this journey to be made through the Hills.

A failure to develop a future network capacity as outlined by Infrastructure Australia will have a devastating consequence on the economic future of our state. It does not make sense for this journey to be made through the Hills. It does not make sense to force the double stacking of trains on the existing line, which can only be achieved by the costly widening of tunnels. It does not make sense to see trains of up to 1.9 kilometres in length being pulled through the Mitcham and Adelaide Hills.

For those opposite who think it is acceptable to have double-stacked 1,900-metre trains chugging through my community, through the Mitcham Hills and the Adelaide Hills, going over Cross Road, going through the intersection and then B-doubles coming down Cross Road, which they want to see as well, it is simply ludicrous. There is a better way, and we need to invest in that better way.

We need a long-term plan. The Liberal Party, the alternative government of South Australia, has that plan. The Labor government's plan is to have long trains, double stacked, going through suburban Adelaide, leading to further congestion.

To me, this is an absolute travesty. It needs to be dealt with. It needs a long-term solution— and it is Globe Link. In addition, Globe Link will see road trains exiting our roads in metropolitan South Australia, coming off the freeway and coming off Portrush Road, because a road bypass will be coupled with the freight bypass at the same time. It is unacceptable to my community and to so many other commuters to see B-doubles going down Cross Road, as the transport minister is advocating, and going down South Road, leading to further congestion. Roads such as Cross Road cannot be widened.

There is no capacity at the moment for what goes down that road. I would just love to see the havoc that will be caused during peak hour when we have a 1.9-kilometre, double-stacked train going through the Cross Road intersection, with four or five B-doubles at that railway crossing at the same time. The disruption that will cause to suburban Adelaide and our road network cannot be calculated.

There is an alternative to improve rail safety through South Australia, through my community, and that of course is the Liberal Party's Globe Link plan. I suggest that the government actually look at this plan. From what I understand, they have been looking at it, and the reason why you see the minister daily attacking this plan is that he is jealous that the Liberal Party pipped him at the post because we know you have been working on this plan. We know you have been developing an alternative transport plan. You know that having double-stacked trains through the Mitcham Hills is not sustainable and is not workable. You know there is a better way, and I implore
you to get on board with our plan that will see improved rail efficiency for South Australia.