Rail Safety National Law (South Australia)

In Parliament - Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Mr DULUK (Davenport) (11:37): I also want to say a few quick words on this bill as it pertains to rail and rail infrastructure. Rail is a big part of our community in Davenport, so I just want to use this opportunity to say a few words about current passenger efficiency, park-and-ride facilities in my electorate, of course the freight line and the ongoing problem with boom gates in my electorate.

The rail line—the Belair line and the freight line—of course, cuts through Davenport. The Adelaide Metro line provides a passenger service to Belair, between Belair and Adelaide, and the freight line travels along the corridor on its way through to the eastern seaboard. As a result, there is huge use of the line through Davenport and the Mitcham Hills. In terms of Adelaide Metro, it is a great passenger service. I caught it in this morning but, too often, it is underutilised, and it is an underperforming passenger service. There are always ongoing issues around efficiency and access to this service.

Earlier this year, the member for Mitchell and I undertook a comparison of travel times along the Belair line between 1951 and today. It is revealing that there is approximately zero change in the time it takes to travel between Belair and Adelaide today, compared to 1951. Of course, in 1951, the line was a steam line. Today, for a teenager on the commute from Belair to the city, that train will not reach its destination in Adelaide any faster than it did in the time of their grandparents or great-grandparents, so this is something we have to look at in addressing the Belair line and the efficiency of that passenger service. Adelaide Metro note on their website:

On time running of services are monitored against the following

performance thresholds [for trains]:

…no more than 5 minutes and 59 seconds after the timetabled

arrival time at the destination…

In the past two weeks, only 86.6 per cent and 87.8 per cent respectively of the Belair line trains ran on time. Indeed, if we want people to use this system, we need people to know that the system is going to run on time. I do appreciate that there are glitches every now and then, but the Belair train line is consistently one of the most inefficient, and it is not meeting the existing benchmarks.

There have been improvements in recent times, and I think we are running at around 90 per cent, but are barely hitting that 95 per cent target, which is what I understand the government is looking at. For me and many of my constituents, running more than six minutes late during the morning commute is not good enough. As I said, based on those previous statistics, around 10 per cent of all passenger services failed to meet the requirement of running on time.

The Belair passenger line is a single track. This means that trains travelling in opposite directions must share the single line and pull into crossover loops to allow freight trains and other trains to pass, which causes some delay. To me, and to many on this side, providing a fast, punctual and accessible train service is a paramount role of government.

If we can improve the efficiency of the Belair line, as well as access and the commute for the users, we will see less congestion on the main arterial roads out of Davenport (Old Belair Road and Shepherds Hill Road) which are both an absolute bottleneck in the morning. Passengers are not currently using the service and are therefore driving to work and causing further congestion on the roads because they are concerned about the efficiency of the line.

In recent weeks, we have seen the federal Labor opposition promise that, if elected, over time they will put trams up Unley Road and Belair Road. I can see this leading to further congestion along those arterial roads; it would not improve the service. I can also see fewer people using the Belair train service. The question that needs to be asked is: why would a government invest in a tram line up Unley Road and Belair Road running alongside an existing passenger train line? I would rather see—as I think would many residents in Davenport—an upgrade and investment in the existing passenger service than a tram coming up Unley Road and Belair Road.

Another big deterrent to people using public transport in Davenport is the lack of parking at park-and-ride facilities at the train stations. If you drive to the Eden Hills train station to catch the morning commute and you have not parked your car by 7.30am, you are not going to get a car park. Inevitably, if you cannot get a car park at the park-and-ride facility, you will turn around, jump back into your car and drive down the hill to the city, further leading to those congestion issues that I have talked about. An additional park-and-ride and an expansion of the current park-and-ride stations along the Belair train line are both critically important.

In the lead-up to 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. This project would deliver significant benefits for the Mitcham Hills. Unfortunately, to date, we have not heard anything from the minister in terms of progress of that park-and-ride facility at Bellevue Heights.

I do know that an additional park-and-ride facility—and hopefully, in time, an additional station at Bellevue Heights—would be seen as a positive step by this government. It is certainly an initiative that I would support, and it would be supported by many residents in Bellevue Heights, Eden Hills and within the broader Davenport community. If we want people to use public transport, we need to provide a service that is accessible to them.

Freight traffic also causes a lot of concern to the residents of the Mitcham Hills. As I said before, the freight line connects the Sydney to Melbourne corridor to Adelaide and through to Perth. The freight traffic passes through the Adelaide Hills on its way to the Port and sorting yards north of Adelaide. The Adelaide to Melbourne freight corridor is one of the busiest in the nation. Rail movement through the Hills is ever increasing, and from approximately 2012-13 to 2013-14 Australia's total freight tonnage increased by about 25 per cent, and this is expected to continue, as the member for Chaffey touched on.

Rail movement through the Hills is an issue of great concern, and if we were to redraw the freight line to Melbourne today, we probably would not go through the Adelaide Hills. There is a steep gradient, there is the 'wheel squeal' issue and there is the ongoing risk, and a concern to many residents especially during summer, of the potential in the worst case scenario of bushfires and freight train derailments, which have occurred.

As the ARTC want us to go to 1.8 kilometre trains and double-stacking down the track, a 1.8 kilometre train going through the Mitcham Hills would close off the crossings at Glenalta, Blackwood and Coromandel all at the same time, creating absolute gridlock through those main roads through the main part of Blackwood and the Mitcham Hills.

The traffic congestion caused by lengthy waits at rail crossings is significant. I have met with the minister and the Rail Commissioner about grade separation at these stations, especially at Glenalta and Blackwood stations.

One issue that cannot seem to be resolved at the moment is the ongoing boom gate failure, particularly at Glenalta. Local residents have suffered as a result of repeated boom gate failures at Glenalta and Blackwood.

On 2 January 2015, the level crossing at Blackwood failed and it was closed for 25 minutes. This was the same day that the Sampson Flat bushfire started. If that Sampson Flat equivalent were to happen in the Mitcham Hills and the boom gate was down for 25 minutes on that day, it would have certainly caused a lot of pandemonium through the Hills.

It is incredibly important that the government and its maintenance team get on top of the boom gate failures because at the moment, and I think my residents will attest to this, the Glenalta boom gate seems to be down almost every week, and they have not been able to solve the ongoing problem. I have asked the government to look into this. There is a petition in my office that is collecting an incredible number of signatures on this matter of urgent upgrades to the boom gates, especially at Glenalta. Stuck boom gates cause serious problems: they obviously hold up traffic and cause frustration. As governments should, we should plan for the worst and hope for the best. Should the worst ever happen when the boom gates are down, it is going to be truly catastrophic for the Mitcham Hills.

In conclusion, we need the state government to listen to the residents of the Mitcham Hills and the Adelaide commuters in terms of their needs in regard to the Belair passenger line and the freight line.

We need a government that is committed to improving the infrastructure on these lines. It is time that the government started addressing the transport problems in the Mitcham Hills area.

We need a committed effort to provide better infrastructure and improved passenger services to encourage more people onto public transport and off our congested local roads. There is a need for a long-term plan for rail freight through the Hills.

Freight volumes are ever-increasing and demand will exceed the existing capacity for the freight line within the next 15 to 20 years. Without action, I believe that South Australia is at serious risk of being cut out of the national freight network.