ARTC fights back over rail criticism

Nick Xenophon would prefer riding a donkey than a train on the east-west rail line. ARTC defends its record

By Ruza Zivkusic | April 8, 2011

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) has defended its maintenance of rail infrastructure after being accused of letting the main east-west rail line deteriorate.

Independent Senator Nick Xenophon has called for a public inquiry into rail infrastructure and says the Sydney to Melbourne track needs urgent attention. But the ARTC says the line’s 80 percent share of the market is proof its reliability has increased.

Spokesman Brad Emery says the ARTC has been upgrading the line for over 10 years, with the average growth of tonnes transported increasing to 4.9 percent annually.

"Our customers who use our railways know this is a complete beat-up. They know that these lines have improved in the last 10 years, they know the hard work ARTC has done and they know the capacity increases we have achieved," he says.

"Anybody with a brain can work out if we’ve got 80 percent market share we must be doing something right. If the rail is that bad then why do we still have 80 percent market share?"

Xenophon claims the millions of dollars spent upgrading the rail line has only made things worse.

"The rail track is in such bad condition, you’d probably be more comfortable if you rode a donkey the entire way," Xenophon says.

"Train drivers and their passengers shouldn’t be afraid about whether or not they’re going to get home safe."

Railroad Contractors Director Glenn McMahon has echoed Xenophon’s criticisms.

The Adelaide-based company moves more than 200 containers per week by rail, but says it is losing revenue because poor track maintenance is causing delays.

"There are too many derailments and that’s what’s causing the trouble," McMahon says.

The company has been delivering general cargo for 15 years, but McMahon says the quality of the infrastructure has declined during the last four years.

"The last delay was six weeks ago due to a flood, but the ARTC knew the track was low and they did nothing about it," McMahon says.

While more can be done to improve the infrastructure, the line is safe and efficient, Emery says.

"Yes, there are mud holes on the north-west line and we’re fixing them. They’re there because of heavy rain," he says.

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