Oct 26, 2009

Question without notice – Rail infrastructure

Question without notice – Rail infrastructure

Parliament House, Canberra

The Hon Anthony Albanese MP

The Minister for Infrastructure, Transport

Regional Development and Local Government

Leader of the House

Member for Grayndler

26 October 2009

Mr WINDSOR (2:48 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government. The minister would recall announcing on 12 December 2008 a $290 million infrastructure stimulus payment to go towards the funding of a new rail alignment through the Liverpool Range on the boundary of the New England and Hunter electorates. Could the minister update the House and those groups that will benefit from the removal of this infrastructure bottleneck to the Port of Newcastle on the current status of this project?

Mr ALBANESE (Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government) — I thank the member for New England for his question and for his ongoing engagement with the infrastructure agenda. I do recall making that announcement. That was part of the $1.2 billion that the government committed to the Australian Rail Track Corporation as part of our economic stimulus package. It was for a range of projects right across the country, from the Kalgoorlie line to work in South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales, and last week we announced the engagement of some work up to the Acacia Ridge from the New South Wales border. Indeed, $290 million of it was for the Liverpool Range project, connecting, as part of the work we are doing in addition to that, $580 million of rail infrastructure in the Hunter. We are getting on with the job. The entire work of the ARTC will more than double the capacity on the Hunter Valley rail network. Two projects have already been completed since they were announced as part of the package—the Maitland to Branxton line, with the bidirectional signalling project being commissioned into operation in May; and the St Helier and Muswellbrook duplication, completed in August. Announced, commenced, completed. Other projects are under way, including the Ulan line, passing loops and duplication, and the Minimbah Bank third rail line.

In relation to the new rail alignment over the Liverpool Range, I can advise the member that the ARTC is currently working with industry to agree on the scope and the commencement date of the project. The ARTC is developing a feasibility program to evaluate the best option for the Liverpool Range. The feasibility evaluation has already been submitted to the effected industry for their approval and support. This is a project about the ARTC cooperating with the private sector industry, working hand in hand. Indeed, the last meeting with industry was just one week ago. At that meeting they agreed in principle to move on to the next stage. This is an important new infrastructure project for raising productivity and that is why the ARTC’s capital works program is planned in conjunction with the industry to meet their future capacity demands. I will keep the member informed on an ongoing basis about these discussions and about the important work which will take place.