‘Pay for railway network revamp yourselves’, says Australian MP to Aurizon and Viterra
The joint request of Australian rail freight operator Aurizon and agricultural company Viterra to upgrade and reopen a railway network in South Australia has received backlash. Rowan Ramsey, MP for the region of Grey where the railway network is located, called the application a “brazen request” and asked the companies to pay for the works “with their spare change”.
Aurizon and Viterra submitted a formal application for federal government funding to upgrade and reopen the Eyre Peninsula railway in early March. According to them, reopening the network would benefit the agricultural sector in the region and its exports.
The funding application, which according to Australian media, is around 220 million Australian dollars, was not welcomed by the local MP Rowan Ramsey, who thinks that the companies should not ask for taxpayers’ money if they want to operate the network.
“They walked away”
Ramsey’s critique targeted Viterra primarily. As he was quoted saying, Viterra’s mother company Glencore is among the top 500 companies in the world, claiming that with such big turnovers, it’s irrational to ask for state funding.
Additionally, he said that Viterra used to be the network’s only customer until five years ago, yet, they decided to walk away and abandon it. On its behalf, Viterra has said that it decided to stop grain transport by rail on the Eyre Peninsula due to the condition of the lines and the restrictions it placed on operations. “Rail was no longer an efficient or cost-effective way to move growers’ grain in the region”, said the company.
Additionally, despite asking for federal both companies involved made long-term pledges for the project and network to reassure that the investment would not go to waste. For instance, Aurizon aims to maintain the line once upgraded and invest in the rolling stock to meet Viterra’s goals of moving “at least 1,3 million tonnes of grain on the rail network yearly”.