Rail Safety National Law (South Australia)

In Parliament - Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Mr DULUK (Davenport) (16:55:57): I also rise to speak to the Rail Safety National Law (South Australia) (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill 2015. This bill makes a series of miscellaneous and consequential amendments to the rail safety regime in South Australia and further harmonises state law to accord with the national rail safety regime.

However, the bill leaves unaddressed others substantial rail safety issues in the state and in my electorate, particularly in relation to the Melbourne-Adelaide rail freight corridor. The Melbourne-Adelaide rail freight corridor carries approximately five million tonnes of freight annually. The corridor runs through my electorate, cutting Main Road at Glenalta and Belair. Taken together with Cross Road in Hawthorn, 63,000 vehicles cross the tracks daily in metropolitan Adelaide. Lengthy traffic delays are experienced at all crossings, especially at peak hours, as many of us know.Urban development means that the corridor passes close to thousands of homes and businesses in Davenport and indeed many other electorates, giving rise to serious safety and health concerns. Health concerns associated with noise pollution from the line are manifest and have been raised many times in this house. The gradient on the line is steep as it comes through many places in my electorate and, when combined with tight corners, the noise emitted by the wheel squeal often exceeds 100 decibels. Noise of that intensity exceeds state and federal noise guidelines and indeed international guidelines.

My predecessor in this house (Hon. Iain Evans) was a strong advocate for Davenport and constantly raised the issue of moving the rail freight line out of the hills. He also asked the current government to review the health of residents living near the line. The government has declined this. Mr Evans also requested that a noise abatement scheme be introduced, including the double glazing of windows and other measures associated with, for example, noise abatement schemes near airports, as we have in the western suburbs. Once again the government declined this.

The safety issues that arise from having a significant rail freight corridor through my electorate were made clear at approximately 7.15 on 2 January this year. On that day, a catastrophic fire day, the boom gates at the Main Road crossing at Blackwood failed and remained closed for 25 minutes. As I said, a catastrophic bushfire warning was in place on that day for the Adelaide Hills and a devastating bushfire ignited the Sampson Flat fires that afternoon.

Main Road, Blackwood is the main escape route for residents of Hawthorndene and Coromandel Valley in my electorate. In the event of a bushfire sweeping through the communities, the vast majority of residents would seek to leave the electorate through Main Road, Blackwood. The prospect of a boom gate at Blackwood being down and obstructing the safe passage of commuters and residents in the event of a bushfire is concerning and unacceptable to myself and to the residents of Davenport. A derailment on the line, such as the derailment in Glenalta in 2004, would give rise to the same safety concerns and to concerns that any cargo or indeed parts of the train itself would cause injury and damage to people and property close to the tracks.

As is to be expected, Adelaide's freight rail needs will increase in time, and this increase will be exacerbated by the health and safety concerns that I have already raised. In a high-use rail modelling scenario, traffic on the line will increase 4.6 times by 2039. This is an increase from about five million tonnes of freight annually to approximately 22 million tonnes going through the Adelaide Hills.

We would need to ask the question today: is the rail freight line designed for 22 million tonnes of freight going through the Adelaide Hills on an annual basis? The Commissioner of Rail Safety recently suggested that rail safety issues, including issues at the many rail crossings throughout the Adelaide metro rail network, keep him up at night, and the transport minister made the same comment on radio this week in respect of his own concerns.

A long-term plan must be formulated for the rail freight going through the Adelaide Hills. The Adelaide Hills rail freight movement study released in June 2010 is inadequate. It adopts a distance-based approach to calculating the cost-benefit outcome of a northern bypass, that is, essentially dollars per train per kilometre travelled.

As has been said in this house before, modelling of this type gives no proper weight to the noise, health, safety and social dislocation factors that influence where and when heavy freight should be moved by train. No resident of my electorate or any other electorate in this state would accept, as the study effectively asks us to accept, that the noise and inconvenience of a heavy freight train passing through open flat land is in any way comparable with the noise of the same freight train climbing or descending a steep incline in the tight turns and narrow valleys of the Adelaide Hills. Notwithstanding my comments, I support this bill.