Rail Safety National Law Amendment Bill Speech

Mr WINGARD ( Mitchell ) ( 15:35 :45 ): I rise today to speak on the Rail Safety National Law (South Australia) (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill and do so referring to the minister's second reading. Having spoken to a number of key stakeholders about this bill, we support this bill and concur with the minister and the statement he made that there are just a few minor amendments to improve this law and its operation. We know the operation of rail safety in South Australia is very important, whether it be in the regions or the city.

I have worked very closely with the members for Chaffey and Flinders in working with companies like Genesee & Wyoming to make sure that the rail lines in the country regions are maintained and serviced and that they support and supply the regions up there. I know the member for Chaffey is very interested in the Loxton and Pinnaroo railway lines and there were some concerns that they would be closing over time. We think it is very important to do everything we can to maintain our rail network in the regions because it has a very big impact, of course, on farming and mining, and it does a great job as far as road safety is concerned in getting truck movements off the road and keeping a good balance between rail and road.

We know the importance of rail to our regions and we know how important the railways are in helping supply produce to market for farmers. As we mentioned also, the mining community does a marvellous job up there and we know we need to keep expanding that and growing our economy in South Australia, and the railways have a very important role to play in that.

It is important throughout the regions and I mentioned a couple of our rural members are very keen on that but, in the press quite a bit of late, has been a lot of talk about the railways in the city. When we talk about rail safety, it was disturbing to note that the new head of the department came out just the other week and mentioned that there had been over 130 near misses on the railway network in recent times and it left him sleepless at night thinking about this prospect. It really is incredibly disconcerting to have that sort of figure and number on our railway line.

In particular, we look at the Gawler electrification that has not happened, and we look at the Seaford line that has had a lot of money spent on it. Over half a billion dollars has been spent on rail electrification in this Adelaide city revitalisation project. Half a billion dollars is a very big spend, and you would hope that that goes towards making our railways safer for commuters and also operators. It is something we have to keep working towards.

I know the minister is very keen on doing that, and he also said to me just the other day that it has him losing sleep at night as well when you hear those numbers of 138 near misses on our railway network. We talk about the half a billion dollar spend on railways and we know it is an expensive operation—there is not just money lying around to do these sorts of projects—so when we do them it really is important to do them right.

One of the privileges I have had being in this role of shadow minister for transport is I have got to meet some great people in great areas of transport—road and rail, and beyond. The rail people are very fascinating and very passionate about our railways and they like to talk about it ad nauseam, which is very informative and of great benefit to me. I have got to listen to and speak with quite a number of people who have a big passion for this industry.

I hark back to the spend of half a billion dollars on the revitalisation/electrification of our rail network. Some of the shortcomings that have come through with this system do not sit well with me. We mentioned that the money was put on the table to kick off this project and to electrify the Gawler and the Seaford lines and beyond. As the project kept evolving, some of the reports that have been tabled in the media more recently—and I refer to 'A brief independent overview of Adelaide electrification June 2012', which the government had commissioned—showed a lack of planning that allowed for scope creep and budget creep on this project.

It got to a stage where the government could not complete what it had promised from the outset and that was the electrification of both the Gawler and Seaford lines. They elected to go with the Seaford line which is beneficial to me and the members in the south, and I will talk more about that in a moment, but they did choose to cut the electrification of the Gawler line. That is intriguing, given that the report states that there were more savings to be had on the Gawler line than on the Seaford line. In fact the report that the government commissioned said that there was double the benefit in electrifying the Gawler line over the Seaford line, so it is interesting that that did not happen.

Regarding this project and the money that needs to be spent and the works that need to be done, I mentioned talking to people in the railway industry and some of the insight they have given me, and I raise these points. We had planned to have the railcars serviced at Dry Creek and now we are not electrified to Dry Creek. Millions of dollars were spent on the new electric trains—the new 4000 series EMUs—which have come to Adelaide at a slower than anticipated pace but they are starting to make their way here.

To get them serviced, they have to be towed to Dry Creek. These trains were not designed to be towed, so it is not ideal but that is how we have had to get around the system because of, again, arguably the mismanagement of this project in not electrifying at least out to Dry Creek. It is very disappointing that that happened.

This project was downscaled in May 2012. When Premier Jay Weatherill and Jack Snelling both came forward and said that they would downgrade this project and they would not electrify to Gawler, a lot of people at Gawler were obviously very disappointed. That was when this report, 'A brief independent overview of Adelaide electrification', was commissioned.

The report was damning. It makes a number of points, but I will just touch on a couple again. One was that the government needs to go about making a master plan for the project to stop scope creep in future. It said that the lack of a master plan was really at the forefront of what was causing a problem and they recommended that the government and Treasury also sign off on that master plan. To date, I have not been able to unearth a couple of important documents, and I am still yet to find that master plan.

I put it to the minister and I put in some FOIs to see if that master plan did actually exist because it would be incredibly disappointing if the master plan did not exist. The report that the government commissioned strongly recommended that a master plan be put in place to prevent more overspend and any scope creep, so it will be intriguing to see if we get anything back from my FOI request on that report or if the government can report back to us and let us know.

They were a couple of the issues, as I said, with this project. When they analysed this report on these projects, they looked at other cities and other jurisdictions that had done similar projects and they modelled the scale on those. For example, there was a project in Perth and projects in Auckland and Otira in New Zealand that were outside the scope of the South Australian projects. Alarmingly, the projects interstate had a far lower rate of spend. The South Australian projects are far more expensive than the projects being done interstate and overseas, which is a little bit alarming as well, as this report points out.

In fact, from the figures that this report uses, the cost of the South Australian project was far greater than the original Halcrow report that was done to cost the electrification. The report was quite fair and reasonable when stacked up against some of the other costings from interstate and overseas, but in terms of the actual cost blowouts, when all was said and done, the projected costings of the South Australian project at the time of this report show that we did pay a heck of a lot more for our rail revitalisation program than was paid overseas and interstate for similar projects. That is a real concern when you look at rail in South Australia.

I have touched on country rail, but we are looking at city rail now and the way things have panned out there, and it really is a concern. As has been reported in the press recently, the Gawler people and the people of the north of Adelaide have reason to be extremely disappointed that they do not have the electrification because, if the government had followed through with its plan and what it had put forward and potentially had stuck to scope and to pricing there, realistically both lines could have been electrified by 2012.

We hear this government talk about blaming the federal government. In fact, it was the federal Labor government that took the money back because arguably they saw what was outlined in this report, that the people running the project perhaps had not spent the money as wisely as they should have. The federal government was probably concerned that the money they had put in to fund their side of this project was being wasted, I presume, because they withdrew their money in 2012, and that is the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government.

Again, I hark back to this project and, ideally if what was delivered was what was promised in 2008, all would have been said and done by the end of 2012 and the project should have been completed. However, as this report points out, some overspends and some other concerns were the reason that the government had to pull the pin on the Gawler line and the money had to be given back to the federal government. As I said, in 2012 it was given back to the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government. They took that money back and that was the state of affairs. I do not like it when I hear this government trying to blame other people. If they had got this project right, if they had done this project as outlined and as committed to in 2008, if there was not the scope creep on their project, the people of Gawler and the people of the north would have their electrified line right now.

What I talk about and what people in the rail industry talk to me about is a more concerning point, and that is that we ordered enough electric trains to service the Gawler line and the Seaford line. Now that the Gawler line is not electrified, we probably have an oversupply and an overabundance of electric trains. In the future if the project is done that will be fantastic and they can service those lines, but in the meantime we have an oversupply. It was an effort to move the older trains off the line and now there are fears that some of those older trains may have to stay in service a whole lot longer.

The other thing that has been brought to my attention is the need for a loop to move the trains around in the central station to actually get the trains towed from the Adelaide Railway Station out to Dry Creek, and I talked about that earlier. I am told it involves four or five different moves. For what could take 10 minutes to get the trains out of the Adelaide station and off to Dry Creek it can take up to an hour, so there are extra costs involved in that as well with drivers having to move, manipulate and work longer shifts to tow these trains out to Dry Creek so they can be serviced there because that is where the servicing facility was put.

The other thing, as raised by the Auditor-General in his report last year, is the almost $50 million worth of wastage—I think it is $46.6 million worth of wastage—that has been identified and written off by the Auditor-General in this project—things that were paid for, things that money was spent on, to electrify the line to Gawler, because it was pulled back in 2012 when the government could not get the project happening. The report that I outlined before showed the details, but they could not manage to get this happening, so they started and now $50 million, or near enough to, has been written off by the Auditor-General.

That sort of thing is really frustrating to South Australians and unfortunate for the people on the Gawler line. They know that their project has been promised and has been on again, off again a number of times since 2012 and it is still somewhere in the distance. I really feel for them when they get on their diesel train to head home to the northern suburbs and they drive past these poles just stationary on the side, generally graffitied and tagged up. They see these poles and they must think, 'Why didn't we get our electrified train line?' Again, the report outlines a number of the reasons, and it is incredibly disappointing. There are more technical issues as well. I mentioned towing the trains and how that can be potentially damaging to electric trains. They are not designed to be towed; it is not the way a train is put together.

Another thing I have received some information on which I find quite concerning and will be following up is that the report also talks about there being only a single SVC. I will not get into too much technical detail, but an SVC is what powers electric trains. It was initially recommended that two SVCs be put into the system—one close to the city and one a little bit further south—so that if there is an issue with one, for example, the one in the south, then the one in the city could still power electric trains and get them down south.

With the dilemma of the cutbacks the government had to make because of their uncontrolled spending on this project, again outlined in this report, what has happened is that they have cut back to using only one SVC, these power points along the line. I will read the report because it is interesting:

Many SVC failures can be dealt with by the replacement of small components held on site. The key component that could cause prolonged outages ( and thus loss of train services ) would be a failure within the SVC transformer. This is not a standard device and if a spare were not procur ed a wait of anything up to 9 months for the construction of a new unit may be required.

It is a real concern that a spare SVC transformer has not been procured, as far as I am aware. I am really keen to find out from the minister exactly what is happening with this. Nine months of shutting down electric trains (which is potentially on the cards, according to this report) if this breaks down would be catastrophic at one extreme and disappointing at the other for the people of the south, and we would be in all sorts of trouble. As I said, if diesel trains are decommissioned, as is the plan, there would be a lack of trains running on the line and that would not be good for our public transport users. The report goes on to say:

As a minimum, the panel recommends that a spare SVC transformer be procured and held in warm storage at Lonsdale It may be possible to use the transformer as part of further SVCs in the future should further lines be electrified.

They are the little things that, when you are running a project like this, I think are really important. People in the train industry talk a lot about these sorts of projects. It is disappointing, as a lot of money was put on the table, a lot of money was put forward, to be spent on this project. It is important that we do spend money on these projects and that we do improve our public transport system to try to get more people onto public transport.

I suppose it is a little like when you do projects at home: you always want to build the nice big pergola out the back and projects that, when people come around, you say, 'Hey, have a look at this. Isn't this fantastic?' However, you have to make sure you do the fundamentals as well. If you need to re-lay a gas pipe that pumps gas to your house, which it is almost as expensive as a pergola at the back of your house, I would suggest, but does not look quite as good, nobody wants to say, 'Come around and have a look at my new gas pipe.' That seems to be the outcome of this project.

I fear that the government wants to do all the fancy things—get new trains on the track and say, 'Look at these new trains, aren't they fantastic?' But have they put in the gas pipe? Have they done those things that will make sure that it all runs and works, the background work? It is not pretty, it is not sexy, but it has to be done to make something work efficiently.

That is a concern I see in this report: it talks about the issues that have not been addressed. It talks about the issues that potentially have been overlooked, and they are not the pretty issues, they are not the things that people see. People can still see electric trains on the track and think that it is all going wonderfully well, but when you dig a little bit deeper and you speak to people in the know and people who are in and around the train industry you find out that a lot of these little things have not been done.

The Premier in this chamber made mention of concrete resleepering throughout the whole network when he talked about the rail revitalisation program. He was quite adamant about replacing the splinters or the toothpicks I think he called them, or something along those lines, and putting down concrete sleepers and about how much better that is for the train line. It rubs me up the wrong way a little bit when he says that because near my electorate office, in the northern end of my electorate, is the Oaklands crossing—and I will talk about that in a few moments because it would not be a train conversation without mentioning it—and right on the bend, where the new electric train runs along the Seaford line, there are still 180 or at least 200 metres of wooden sleepers.

The Premier talks about getting rid of the splinters, but he has not been out to have a look at the rail line to realise that there are still some of those splinters or wooden toothpicks still out there acting as sleepers and that the project has not been completed. That is what the people of South Australia need to know, that is why they were so interested in this report—to realise that, whilst the government launches the railway line and has all the fanfare and hoopla of having new electric trains, they have not really done all the groundwork to make sure that all things work well and constantly and for a long, long time.

We have talked about the GHD report that was done on the tramline, and it was interesting to ask some questions of the minister today and get his answers, and we talked about remediation. The report the government had done—and I was lucky enough to get my hands on this as well because it was stacked away and the public were not made aware of this one—indicates that there were over 1,000 faults in the laying of conduit cable for the tramline upgrade when it ran from Victoria Square around to the Morphett Street Bridge, and 1,000 faults are a lot of faults.

I am no engineer, nor am I an expert, but with that number of faults in a project that was completed by the 2010 election (which is a coincidence), it appears that when you look at some of these things the project has been rushed—and it was rushed for a reason. Some might say the project was rushed to be completed by the 2010 election, again so you could have all the hoopla and all the fancy stuff and you could go to an election saying, 'Here are the trams, aren't they fantastic?'

Looking through the report the government commissioned, and they would have seen it and looked back at it—and some of my plumber mates have had a flick through this—I point out, and someone made mention to me, that there are pictures of the conduit that is laid in the ground. I learnt very quickly a bit about conduits, and again I am no expert, but the conduit is laid in the ground and it has to dovetail end on end in a specific manner so that there are no rough edges and it flows very nicely.

Some of the pictures in this report are quite shocking and quite damning, outlining how the conduit was laid. It makes the edges very jagged and very harsh on any cable that is pulled through this conduit. So, you pull through an electrical cable that is running through the conduit and there is a jagged edge on the side of the conduit (because it has not been laid properly) and it rips the sheath off the cable; hence, the cable needs to be replaced more quickly than was originally designed.

Some of these other pictures show the laying of bedding sand. When you lay a conduit—as was explained to me by some experts in the area—you lay down bedding sand, and sand makes perfect sense. You lay down bedding sand and put the conduit in the pit with the bedding sand, and then you pull the pipe through. The bedding sand allows the conduit plastic to move around a little bit as needed but does not allow for harsh rocks to push through.

In some significant sections of this project, they did not lay any bedding sand. There are photos in the report, and they did not lay any bedding sand. As a result, it has allowed rocks to push through the conduit. You can see in some of the photos, where they have sent down something like an arthroscopic camera to have a look down the pipe, where the rocks have pushed through. Again, if you pull an electrical cable through that sheath, the sharp rocks slice the cable and render the cable useless more quickly than had it otherwise worn out.

If you look at some of the pits, I am sure these are projects that will be repaired—and I hope they are. The standard reports that are laid down for the pits where the conduits and the cables run are quite concerning regarding the standard to which they are done. The conduit sits under the ground and no-one sees it. People see the tram go by, but they do not know that down under the ground these problems are occurring, and it is alarming.

As I said, there are over 1,000 faults, and the report suggests that to remedy these, to actually fix them and get what the government paid for and what they scoped for, the road or the railway, the line, needs to be dug up, the conduits need to be dug up, and they need to be re-laid because the standard is not acceptable. I talked about my plumber mate; he said to me, 'If I produced work like that on any job I was doing, I would be out of a job and out of work, and I would be sacked.'

They are the sorts of things we see with rail in this city, and they worry me. As I said, as shadow transport minister, the more people I get to speak to the more alarming it is. It would be remiss of me to not talk about the rail project that is at the centre of my electorate and my concerns because this has been going on for a long time—and I have mentioned it in this house many times before—that is, Oaklands crossing. I grew up in Oaklands Park and I have been through that crossing many times since I got my licence when I was 16 and I am now 44. I probably did not need to say that but I have.

Members interjecting:

Mr WINGARD: Yes. The government has done some plans and some specs and I will talk about them in a second. I have had my licence for a very long time and I said to someone the other day, 'If I had put a dollar in a jar every time I have been through that intersection and $5 every time I have stopped there, I would be able to make a very significant contribution to fixing the overpass and getting the project done.'

When I talk about the overpass, it was one of the rail projects that first introduced me to what goes on with rail. I was going to say that I have had people talk to me about this daily, but it is at least two or three times a day anywhere in and around my electorate—and it spreads further than the electorate of Mitchell, it goes into neighbouring electorates. Obviously there is a boundary between two of our electorates but anyone in the South will talk about this.

One of the things that we have watched over the journey is, again, promises made by past Labor governments which were very much unfulfilled. There was a promise of a $12.6 million upgrade to the precinct but that was pulled out of the previous budget as well, I think back in 2008. Instead, a couple of million dollars was spent on a study. I still find it quite fascinating that $2 million was spent on a study into the traffic congestion in that area, and all we managed to see were some pretty pictures of an overpass.

We did not get the flyover that the government normally provides. Normally there is quite an expensive fancy computer-generated flyover but this one just had some pictures. They floated around for a long time. In fact, it was back when minister Pat Conlon was the transport minister, I think in about 2011 or maybe a little after that, there were some very fancy pictures floating around of a rail overpass.

Arguably that is why the wooden sleepers were not pulled up on that bend. They were hoping or thinking or wondering about building an overpass but it never eventuated. One of the minister's staff at the time was reported in The Advertiser as saying that, after spending $2 million on the study and the diagrams, it was going to cost beyond $100 million. That was five or six years ago now, so it was a fair while ago, and the figures were as rubbery as 'beyond $100 million'.

I am intrigued to see what is going to happen with that. I am concerned now that the cost of the overpass has pushed out beyond $150 million. These are some of the other factors that we look at as far as rail is concerned in South Australia. The Oaklands crossing is a real bugbear in my electorate and around the South. I raised an issue in the media on the weekend concerning the report that came to me about the people of Gawler not having their rail line electrified. It was mentioned by the member for Kaurna in a bit of social media banter. He was very quick to jump on board and suggest that I was criticising the Seaford line and not looking after people in my electorate.

As I said, I am very happy to support good infrastructure projects that support public transport in this state. As the report outlined, my concerns were the money that was spent and the money that was potentially wasted on this project when a lot of key indicators in this report suggest both of these projects could have been done for what was spent on just the Seaford line.

I get back to the member for Kaurna because, as I said, he was very quick to get onto social media and criticise me for knocking a project for the South, and it could not be further from the truth. In fact, it was one of the worst cheap shots. I would liken it to an old football analogy of someone who tries to clip you behind the ears when you are not looking. If the member for Kaurna was serious about looking after the South he would be concerned for the whole South. In fact, if he was serious about helping South Australia, he would be thinking about the greater good of South Australia. I really fear that he might just be a little too insular and not be thinking of others apart from himself because, if he was serious about the full Seaford line, he would have supported the overpass—

Mr Picton: Do you support the Seaford line?

Mr WINGARD: I absolutely support the Seaford line.

Mr Picton: That is different from what you said on Sunday.

Mr WINGARD: That is not what I said. The member for Kaurna is so misled and so incorrect, in fact, it was absolutely incorrect. He had no idea what I said and his tweets on social media were 100 per cent wrong and, not for the first time, the member for Kaurna was100 per cent wrong—

Members interjecting:

Mr WINGARD: —and I am sure it will not be the last. The people down south really have to understand—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! The member for Mitchell is entitled to be heard in silence. Member for Mitchell.

Mr WINGARD: Thank you, Deputy Speaker. The member for Kaurna, if he was serious about the south and the whole region, would have supported the Oaklands overpass and known how important it is. Because he has a fancy bridge and he has—

Members interjecting:

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I remind all members that it is unparliamentary to interject and unparliamentary to respond to interjections. I remind you all of standing order, I think, 141, that a member is entitled to be heard in silence. I do not wish to remind you all again. I will have to bring the book out and start calling people to order. Member for Mitchell.

Mr WINGARD: Deputy Speaker, maybe the member for Kaurna is supporting the overpass at Oaklands, and I am sure he is going to come and campaign hard with me to try to get a solution for that area, because he is very happy to have solutions in his area. He is very happy to take infrastructure projects that benefit his electorate, but he is not as supportive of the rest of the south. I will give other examples: the Southern Expressway did not get an on/off ramp in my part of the electorate but services his part of the electorate very well. He is very keen to spruik that but he does not want to support other parts of the south, so I find that a little disconcerting. This is another project, again, that he spruiks on about, the Seaford rail line—

Mr PICTON: Point of order.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: You have a point of order, member for Kaurna?

Mr PICTON: Deputy Speaker, I completely reject the assertion that I do not support the south.

An honourable member interjecting:


Mr PICTON: I also raise the point of order that the member for Mitchell has not referred at all to the content of the bill in his speech and I would ask if you could draw him back to the content of the bill.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: It would be good—

Members interjecting:

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! It would be good, member for Mitchell, if you perhaps centred on the topic—

An honourable member interjecting:

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order!—at hand and did not refer to the member for Kaurna and what he has said every five seconds. Member for Mitchell.

Mr WINGARD: Thank you, Deputy Speaker. I was just trying to raise a point that—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: No; speech, not member for Kaurna.

Mr WINGARD: That is right. I said, thank you, Deputy Speaker. I was just trying to raise a point about rail safety and the fact that it is an overarching view of rail safety and all of those facets. The Minister for Transport will tell you that we have had many a discussion about how having such an open-ended system does mean that rail safety is paramount on the Gawler line, the Seaford line and all the lines around Adelaide, they are all important, and grade crossings are one of the keys to rail safety. That is what I was getting at there with the Oaklands crossing and I was looking for some support from the member for Kaurna, so hopefully he will do that.

The point I was making as well, as we talk about the Oaklands crossing and grade separation, is how important it is to find a solution. It has been going over for over 30 years, as I said, from when I first got my licence, so quite a long time ago. There has been promise after promise after promise. I probably feel a bit like the people of the north do with the Gawler electrification, who have had promise after promise after promise and it has since been taken away. It is very disheartening and discouraging for them.

The other thing I wanted to say is, as we look at all of these projects, and I have talked about rail in the regions and making sure we do everything we can to support our regional friends and make sure we get produce and goods moving as quickly and efficiently as possible to maintain a productive and vibrant South Australia in the regions. Public transport, on rail, is also extremely important and I hope, with some of these projects we have looked at, that in the future, when we do look at these projects, we can make sure they are efficient as possible.

Reports like the one I referred to earlier, the brief independent overview of Adelaide electrification, point out some of these issues, and it is not needed even to be scoped or to be done because it would be great if these projects were running as efficiently and effectively as possible. With that, I support the Rail Safety National Law (South Australia) (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill and commend it to the house.

Authorised by Corey Wingard MP, Member for Gibson. Level 2, 1 Milham Street Oaklands Park SA 5046. ©Copyright / Legal / Login