Regional Forums

    What are the Regional Forums about?

    These forums are your opportunity to learn about the government investments already happening across the state to improve agricultural freight.

    They are also your opportunity to have a say about how future investment is directed.

    The project team plans to use each regional forum to update and get feedback from local communities on public investment in agricultural freight across the State, but with a special focus on the region in which each forum is held.

    The forums will have three focuses:

    1. The project team will provide updates on what’s already being done - including:
      - planning work that has been done so far; and
      - publicly funded upgrades to road and rail that are already underway or committed that will improve agricultural freight outcomes, particularly for their region.

    2. Attendees will be briefed on opportunities for more public investment in the near future. The project team will be seeking feedback on the investment proposals being considered this year for up to $200 million in funding from the first Package of the recently announced new, jointly funded Agricultural Supply Chain Improvement program.

    3. Finally, the forums will explain and seek feedback on the work underway to identify and rank the longer-term program of rail and road investment proposals to form part of the next stage (Stage 2) of a business case the WA Government will be submitting to Infrastructure Australia, which will guide future packages of funding.

    When and Where are the Regional Forums?

    Dates and times for the regional forums are listed below.

    DateTime CentreVenue
    Thursday 22 July
    2pm - 4pmGeraldton
    Batavia Coast Conference Centre
    Monday 26 July
    11am - 1pm
    Eric Farrow Pavilion
    Monday 26 July
    5pm - 7pm
    Merredin Leisure Centre
    Tuesday 27 July
    12pm - 2pm
    Dalwallinu Rec Centre
    Tuesday 27 July5pm - 7pmNorthamNortham Bridgeley Community Centre
    Thursday 29 July12pm - 2pmAlbanyAlbany Masters Builder Association
    Tuesday 3 August12pm 2pmEsperanceNoel White Centre (part of the Esperance Leisure Centre)

    If you’re interested in attending, we encourage you to pre-register so that we can keep in touch with you about any additional information and any changes to the meeting arrangements.

    Who should attend?

    These regional forums are for anyone interested in the Agricultural Supply Chain - how our grain and other agricultural products get to market - including:

    • growers;
    • people in the road or rail freight industries; and
    • anyone who has an interest in how our freight arrangements affect the regional economy, road safety, community amenity or the environment.

    How can I have my say if I can’t go to a Regional Forum?

    If you can’t attend the forum in your area but would like to be involved in the consultation process, you will be able to learn more about the issues and make submissions through the My Say Transport website once the forums have been completed in August.

    What will happen after the Regional Forums?

    • Attendees will receive a summary of feedback received from the forums and from written submissions after submissions have closed and been analysed.
    • The State and Federal Governments will decide over the next six months how the $200 million from Package 1 of the ASCI funding program will be spent. Feedback from stakeholder consultation through stakeholder meetings, regional forums and public submissions will be a factor taken into account when those decisions are made.
    • The WA Government will lodge submissions to Infrastructure Australia through stages 2 and further stages of Infrastructure Australia’s business case process. Feedback from stakeholder consultation, including regional forums and public submissions, will be summarised and taken into account in those submissions.

    Where can I view the presentation from the session I attended?

    Click here to view the slides that were presented.  

The Agricultural Supply Chain Improvement (ASCI) Initiative

    Who are the ASCI Project Team?

    WA's three core transport agencies: Department of Transport, Public Transport Authority (which manages the freight rail network lease), and Main Roads have contributed to a project team supporting the ASCI initiative, along with advisors, EY and Western Australian Treasury Corporation.

    What is the ASCI Project Team doing?

    The project team is preparing a submission for Infrastructure Australia in support of public investment in Agricultural Supply Chain Improvements for WA, using Infrastructure Australia’s 5 stage business case process. – see below for more detail.

    It is also advising government on the allocation of funding from Package 1 of the new, jointly funded WA Agricultural Supply Chain Improvements (ASCI) funding program – see below for more detail.

    The project team is consulting with industry and community stakeholders, and with Infrastructure WA, as it undertakes these tasks.

    Why is investment required to improve WA’s Agricultural Supply Chain?

    Agriculture is a significant industry for Western Australia. In 2018–19, the gross value of agricultural production in the state was $10.7 billion, which represents 18% of the total gross value of agricultural production in Australia and three percent of Western Australia’s Gross State Product.

    Western Australia’s regional freight task from its agricultural regions relies heavily on road, rail and port infrastructure, but these assets are ageing and imposing high economic and social costs on customers and on those communities. 

    Western Australia’s regional freight network faces a number of challenges, including:

    • a growing and changing freight task
    • ageing and under-performing road and rail infrastructure, including poor surface condition and road width
    • consolidation of grain receival facilities
    • increasing use of larger vehicles, but insufficient road mass limits
    • pressure to increase supply chain productivity
    • poor road safety outcomes.

    Freight transport bottlenecks and a lack of capacity along key agricultural rail and road freight routes limit export volumes during periods of the year for Western Australian growers where prices received would be at their highest.

    Why should the investment in the Agricultural Supply Chain include public investment and not just private investment?

    Local and State Governments already have an obligation to maintain and, where possible, improve the roads from farm to port so that those roads can safely and productively handle the growing grain freight task. 

    The case can be made that the national benefits of a safer, more productive agricultural freight roads also justifies a funding contribution from the Federal government. 

    The freight rail network was privatised in 2001, and the leaseholder – Arc Infrastructure – is required by the lease to invest to maintain the current freight rail network at its pre-existing operating standards. 

    However, additional investment to upgrade the rail network may make it more efficient and cost-effective for growers and may attract grain freight off road to rail, relieving the economic and social costs on grain freight roads. 

    A public contribution to that additional investment may be justified where the investment cost is more than the leaseholder’s commercial interests would justify, but it is in the broader interests of the State that the investment proceed.

Previous Planning Work

    What planning work has been done so far to look at improvements to WA’s Agricultural Supply Chain?

    The WA Government has completed and published:

    • the Revitalising Agricultural Regional Freight (RARF) Strategy (2020) - see more detail below, and
    • the Tier 3 Grain Lines Engineering Review Report (“the Agonis Report”) (2020) -– an independent engineering assessment outlining the estimated cost of restoring each section of the Wheatbelt's Tier 3 rail network – see more detail below.

    The State Government and 42 Wheatbelt shires also worked together to develop:

    • the Wheatbelt Secondary Freight Network strategy - a regional strategy to improve road freight safety and efficiency across high priority grain freight routes within the region’s local government road network- see more detail below.

    What is the Revitalising Agricultural Regional Freight (RARF) Strategy?

    The Revitalising Agricultural Regional Freight (RARF) strategy identified more than 20 multi-modal regional transport infrastructure project packages, which could assist in improving agricultural freight efficiencies and productivity. The RARF strategy provides a framework to prioritise decision-making to address the key challenges faced when transporting grain, livestock, hay, fertiliser and agricultural lime in the key agricultural regions of the Mid-West, Wheatbelt, Great Southern and Goldfields-Esperance.

    The regional transport infrastructure project packages identified included upgrading operating (Tier 1 and 2) rail lines and improving access for longer trains, building new regional intermodal terminals and upgrading roads to allow for heavy vehicle access.

    What has happened since the Revitalising Agricultural Regional Freight (RARF) Strategy was published?

    Since the release of the RARF Strategy, investment in upgrades to local government roads and Main Roads has been underway, under newly introduced road funding programs – see more detail below.

    The State has also been in discussion with Arc Infrastructure and the CBH Group to establish a shortlist of high priority projects on the Tier 1 and 2 rail networks.

    Consultation while developing the RARF Strategy showed strong sentiment among grain growers and local communities towards reinstating the Tier 3 railway lines, so the WA Government broadened the range of rail investment proposals under consideration to include potentially investing in the Tier 3 rail network.

    The ASCI project team is now building on the RARF to develop an Infrastructure Australia Stage 2 business case supporting public investment in WA’s Agricultural Supply Chain.

    What are the “Tier 3” Lines?

    The Tier 3 rail lines, built in the early 1900s, were previously used to transport grain. They were privatised in 2000 as part of the freight rail network lease now held by Arc Infrastructure.

    Arc Infrastructure closed the Tier 3 rail lines in 2014, with the agreement of the WA Government based on the findings in 2009 of a joint government and industry Grain Freight Network review they were not commercially viable.

    In 2016, CBH also embarked on a program to close half of its 202 grain receival sites over 10 years, focusing its investment on upgrading grain handling facilities at the remaining 100 sites.

    A consistent increase in crop yields has also increased the overall freight task over the past decade. 

    Since these changes, the freight task on local roads from farm to receival bin has increased, compounding challenges in maintaining the roads to an acceptable standard.

    The RARF does not include any proposals to invest in reinstating any of the Tier 3 lines. Is the Government still considering investing in reinstating any Tier 3 lines?

    Consultation while developing the RARF Strategy showed strong sentiment among grain growers and local communities towards reinstating the Tier 3 railway lines.

    The WA Government has therefore broadened the range of investment proposals under consideration to include potentially investing in the Tier 3 rail network.

    The Tier 3 lines are in variable condition and any line section would need to be upgraded before being brought back into service.

    The WA Government’s position about the allocation of Package 1 will be based on RARF priorities, and all available advice and consultation with all stakeholders.

    What is the Tier 3 Grain Lines Engineering Review (Agonis) Report?

    The Tier 3 Grain Lines Engineering Review Report, undertaken by Agonis Group, provides detailed estimates of the cost to restore each line section of the Tier 3 network to a suitable condition for commercial operation, including the potential to upgrade some sections from narrow to standard gauge.

    It was commissioned by the WA Government after consultation while developing the RARF Strategy showed strong sentiment among grain growers and local communities towards reinstating the Tier 3 railway lines.

    The independent engineering assessment of the Tier 3 lines advises on the cost and time required to rehabilitate each line and was commissioned so that its analysis could inform future investment proposals.

    While the engineering report confirms restoring the entire network would involve significant costs, further work is considering whether the cost of investment in specific lines could be offset by ongoing commercial and community benefits such as reduced truck volumes on local roads and cost savings to farmers.

    A copy of the engineering report is available here:

    What is the South West Supply Chain Strategy and how does it interact with the Agricultural Supply Chain Improvement initiative?

    The South West Supply Chain Strategy is a standalone document that identifies and prioritises future road, rail, air and port infrastructure requirements in the South West region for the next 10-15 years. While the strategy does acknowledge that modest volumes of grain are exported via Bunbury, this task is handled solely on the state- owned road network and does not materially impact or interact with the area covered by the Agricultural Supply Chain Improvement initiative.

    The South West Supply Chain Strategy examines broader bulk import and export supply chains associated with mining, agriculture and forestry and focuses on alumina/bauxite, lithium, caustic soda, timber, grain, agribusiness, mineral sands, copper concentrate and container freight that originate or terminate in the South West region.

    A draft version of the strategy was released in June 2020 and is available on the Department of Transport website. The Department has reviewed feedback on the strategy and is currently undertaking further work on potential rail supply chains in the South West. A final version will be considered by State Government before its release.

The Infrastructure Australia Business Case Process

    Why is the WA Government preparing a submission to Infrastructure Australia (using its 5-stage Assessment process)?

    The ASCI project team is now building on the RARF to develop an Infrastructure Australia Stage 2 business case supporting public investment in WA’s Agricultural Supply Chain.

    Submission of a business case to Infrastructure Australia can provide the foundation for a long-term funding partnership with the Federal Government for investment in rail and road freight infrastructure.

    National Cabinet resolved in December 2020 that Infrastructure Australia must evaluate project proposals which require more than $250 million in Commonwealth funding – an increase from the previous threshold of $100 million.

    The business case process will identify and prioritise a comprehensive program of additional rail and road improvements across the grain growing regions to optimise the efficiency of the supply chain, while minimising its adverse impacts on road safety, community amenity and the environment. The business case will inform a long-term investment strategy across WA’s agricultural freight infrastructure.

    Potential improvements include:

    • addressing maintenance backlogs or implementing pre-emptive maintenance
    • partial road and rail upgrades, such as cross-section improvements
    • full road upgrades, including geometric corrections
    • provision of new road and rail routes.

    What is Infrastructure Australia’s Role?

    Infrastructure Australia is an independent body established by the Federal government to provide research and advice to the Federal Government (and to other governments and industry) on infrastructure investments.

    While Infrastructure Australia assesses infrastructure project proposals, it is the Federal Government which decides how Federal infrastructure funding is allocated, having regard among other things to Infrastructure Australia’s advice.

    What is Infrastructure Australia’s 5-stage Assessment Process?

    Infrastructure Australia uses a structured process for assessing infrastructure proposals for the Infrastructure Priority List. This process is broken into five stages:

    Stage 1: Problem identification and prioritisation - completed calendar year 2020

    Stage 2: Initiative identification and options development – submission in the second half calendar year 2021

    Stage 3: Business case development – expected to begin late calendar year 2021

    Stage 4: Business case assessment – expected calendar year 2022

    Stage 5: Post-completion review – post ASCI project completion

Upgrades Underway and Committed

    What grain freight rail upgrades has the WA Government already made commitments to that will improve freight outcomes?

    Prior to the election, the WA Government committed to investing $22 million towards upgrading four freight rail projects at Moora, Brookton, Broomehill and Cranbrook, which were identified as a priority in the Revitalising Agricultural Region Freight (RARF) Strategy.

    The government’s $22 million investment in rail siding extensions will be accompanied by an $80 million investment by CBH in associated rapid rail loader infrastructure.

New Road Funding Programs Improving Agricultural Freight Roads

    Has the WA Government already introduced new funding programs which can fund improvements to WA’s Agricultural Supply Chain?

    Working with local and Federal governments, the WA Government has introduced new co‑funded investment programs, including:

    • the Wheatbelt Secondary Freight Network funding program;
    • the Regional Road Safety funding program; and most recently
    • “Package 1” of the WA Agricultural Supply Chain Improvements (ASCI) funding program.

    These funding programs will enable significant agricultural freight road and rail upgrades to be delivered in the short to medium term and are targeting a mix of road and Tier 1, 2 and potentially 3 rail projects across WA’s agricultural regions.  

    They will generate regional employment and economic activity in the short to medium term, while delivering a legacy of safer and more productive transport infrastructure for the regions.

    What is the Wheatbelt Secondary Freight Network funding program?

    A regional strategy was developed by “The Wheatbelt group” (comprising Shires within the North and South Wheatbelt Regional Road Groups, Main Roads, the Wheatbelt Development Commission, WA Local Government Association (WALGA) and Regional Development Australia (RDA) Wheatbelt Inc) to improve road freight safety and efficiency across the key transport routes, focusing on upgrades to 950km of high priority grain freight routes within the region’s local government road network, planned to be upgraded over the next six years in five stages.

    The involvement of all 42 Wheatbelt shires makes it the biggest local government collaboration in Australia.

    The strategy was a response to the challenge that the majority of these Wheatbelt Secondary Freight Network roads used by freight vehicles are unsuited to high volumes of heavy vehicle traffic. 

    A $187.5 million jointly funded program was established in 2020 to begin implementing the Wheatbelt Secondary Freight Network strategy. 

    Why is the Secondary Grain Freight Network funding program confined to the Wheatbelt region – what about the Midwest, the Great Southern and Esperance?

    The Wheatbelt group, which has faced the challenges arising from the loss of the Tier 3 lines since 2014, took the initiative several years ago to develop its agreed regional investment strategy. The equivalent of the Wheatbelt Secondary Freight Network structure can be set up for the Midwest and the Great Southern regions. Goldfields-Esperance will be treated differently in that it has only one LGA, the Shire of Esperance, that has agricultural roads in the region.

    What is the Regional Road Safety Program?

    The rate of fatal and serious injury road crashes (from run-off-road and head-on crashes) in regional WA is five times higher than the same type of crash in the metropolitan area.

    The Regional Road Safety Program will significantly improve road user safety and help to reduce road trauma through the installation of audible edge lines and sealing of road shoulders to provide a more forgiving road environment.

    These much-needed road safety treatments are being delivered across the state with $455 million being invested to upgrade up to 7,000 kilometres of roads by July 2022.

    Unlike the Australian and State Government Black Spot programs, which focus on site-specific treatments, this program considers an entire route, taking into account both crash statistics and current condition.

    Main Roads prioritises nominations based on safety criteria – namely crash ranking, proposed treatments and the deliverability and cost effectiveness.

    When complete, up to 50 per cent of the State’s regional road network will be upgraded, including many roads within the agricultural grain freight road network, helping to prevent up to 2,000 fatal or serious injury crashes.

    A number of Local Government roads have also been identified as suitable for these upgrades and Main Roads continues to liaise with WALGA to finalise details regarding the Local Government portion of this program.

    Over the next two years, state and local regional roads, including agricultural freight roads, will be treated with:

    • sealed shoulders
    • installation of audible edge and
    • installation of audible centre lines (where suitable)

    The $455 million program is in two parts:

    • A $100 million program commenced in July 2020 and runs through to June 2021. Most of these projects are underway or are about to commence.
    • A $355 million program which will be delivered in three tranches (stages):
      1. Tranche 1 - commences 1 January 2021 through to 30 June 2021. This $158 million program will see almost 2,600 kilometres of road upgraded;
      2. Tranche 2 - commences 1 July 2021 through to 31 December 2021; and
      3. Tranche 3 - commences 1 January 2022 through to 30 June 2022.

The ASCI Funding Program – “Package 1"

    What is the WA Agricultural Supply Chain Improvements program, and what funds will be available when under “Package 1” of the program?

    Following acceptance by Infrastructure Australia in February its 2021 Infrastructure Priority List of the WA Government’s Stage 1 submission that improving WA’s Agricultural Supply Chain was a priority worthy of investment, the Federal Government in its May 2021 budget announced a contribution of $160 million towards “Package 1” of a jointly funded WA Agricultural Supply Chain Improvements (ASCI) program.

    The Federal Government describes the program as contributing funding to various rail and associated road upgrades used by the agricultural sector in the Wheatbelt, Midwest and Goldfields-Esperance regions, and describes the benefits as including:

    • Improved road safety for all road users
    • Improved freight productivity
    • Improved freight rail services.

    The program will increase road safety by supporting the transport of more grain on rail and reducing heavy vehicle movements on regional roads. Upgrades to allow longer grain trains will reduce rail freight costs for grain growers and increase grain export supply chain capacity.

    The WA Government’s contribution, beyond the $22 million it has already committed for rail siding upgrades, will be confirmed in its September 2021 budget.

    Program funding is expected to be available in instalments from mid-2022 until mid-2027.

    Has all of Package 1 of the ASCI funding already been allocated to projects?

    No. Other than the $22 million investment in rail sidings to which the WA Government is committed, the project team is considering investment proposals and the State and Federal Governments will decide on the allocation of the funding later this year. The Regional Forums will have an opportunity to provide feedback on the proposals being considered.

    Which investment proposals are being considered this year for up to $200 million in funding from “Package 1” of the recently announced new, jointly funded Agricultural Supply Chain (ASCI) funding program?

    A broad list of long-term investment proposals in rail, road and intermodal infrastructure is being considered as part of the Infrastructure Australia business case assessment process.

    However, government decisions on how the Package 1 funding will be allocated are required this year, before that assessment process is completed.

    Because Package 1 of the ASCI program is currently the only funding source available for rail freight investment, and that investment is required to be made quickly over the next few years, the investment proposals being considered for Package 1 funding will mostly be public investments in freight rail (whether Tier 1, 2 or 3) which are considered “shovel ready” and can be completed by 2024-25.

    How will the decision be made to allocate the $200 million “Package 1” ASCI funding?

    When allocating Package 1 funding to investment, the investment proposals which are selected will be projects which the WA and Federal Governments are satisfied will maximise the benefits to WA of the public funds invested, in terms of improved road safety and improved freight productivity.

    Will there be a “Package 2” of ASCI funding?

    The State and Federal Governments are continuing to work together towards further investments, but decisions about further funding packages will be made as part of the governments’ respective 2022-23 budget processes.

    Anticipation of Package 2 will lead the State Government to prioritise investments for Package 1 that can be completed by 2024- 25.