|Issue No. 168
|28 February 2003
Interview: Agenda 2003
Peace: The Colour Purple
Industrial: Long, Hot Summer
Solidarity: Workers Against War
Security: Howard And The Hoodlums
International: Industrial Warfare
History: Unions and the Vietnam War
Review: Eight Miles to Mowtown
Poetry: Return To Sender
Satire: CIA Recruits New Intake of Future Enemies
The Locker Room
More Talk Needed on War
Report Derails Freight Plans
BIS Shrapnel says the proposal to give Canberra control of the track was based on unrealistic costings that would leave NSW taxpayers exposed by up to half a billion dollars.
It says that while the short term financial benefits to NSW "are tempting", the proposal itself is seriously flawed and opens the State Government up to "substantial risks".
"While ARTC's revenue projects are reasonable, its cost projections are unachievable without leading to a serious degradation in the quality of the leased rail network over the longer term and, most probably, an associated deterioration in performance and safety standards," the report says.
Under the proposal the Australian Rail Track Corporation would take control of NSW rural rail through a 60-year lease; paying the NSW Government peppercorn rents and undertaking to invest $872 million over the first five years.
But the sting for workers is that the commercial viability of the track would revolve around reducing labour costs, with maintenance work contracted out at a cost of up to 1,500 regional jobs.
Rail unions have campaigned against the proposal, with a regional tour of Rail Towns last year under the banner 'Keep Our Railway Together', where mass meetings called on Treasurer Michael Egan to reject the proposal.
Those calls have been backed by the BIS Shrapnel report, commissioned by the Labor Council to determine whether the proposal met key public interest benchmarks.
Among the key findings
- the financial viability of the project was 'doubtful' with current costings understated by around $800 million.
- cost projections for track inspection, maintenance and minor works was at least a third below the estimated minimum required.
- the ARTC plan would lead to a substantial decline in employment, changes to manning and employment conditions, a shift from day labour to contract or sub-contracting and "(arguably) potential impacts on safety standards and the performance of the network.
The report also highlights an existing rail telecommunications network that currently provides access to emergency services, the RTA and education department at cost price. Under the ARTC proposal this would also transfer to Canberra, a cost not calculated in the current figures.
Rail Tram and Bus Union state secretary Nick Lewocki says the Carr Government should now advise the Commonwealth that the ARTC business plan failed to meet the agreed benchmarks and should not be proceeded with.
He warns that NSW faces a long-term track crisis similar to the one faced in Britain after rail privatisation, where the government was forced to inject 33 billion pounds to rescuer the system.
NSW Labor Council secretary John Robertson says that verdict is now in. "The independent advice is that there are no public interest grounds for this proposal to go ahead."
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