THE Federal Government is being called on to withhold future funding of the Hunter Valley rail corridor until coal trains are covered.
Through the Australian Rail Track Corporation, the federal government plans to inject up to $4 billion more into the rail line over the next five years.
That is on top of the $600million to $700 million spent over the past five years by the ARTC on rail line upgrades in the Hunter to move more coal.
The details were provided by ARTC chief executive officer John Fullerton to NSW Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon in a recent Senate budget estimates session.
Mr Fullerton said between $400 million and $500 million was needed to complete the current program of works, plus another $3.5billion in relation to the proposed fourth coal-loader, T4.
Given that level of investment by the federal government, it needed to step in where the state government was failing, Ms Rhiannon said.
“The federal government is up to its neck in funding coal rail infrastructure and could withhold money until rail wagons are covered for the sake of the health of locals up and down the rail corridor,’’ Ms Rhiannon said.
‘‘Neither the ARTC, nor Federal Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese, can duck responsibility for the health and environmental impact of coal train movements along its rail lines.
“Local federal Labor MPs need to back up their concern about the health impacts of coal dust with a clear commitment that the federal government will force coal companies to cover rail wagons.’’
The call follows the launch of the Newcastle Herald’s Great Cover Up campaign to eliminate dust emissions from coal wagons.
The majority of Hunter MPs have expressed support for the campaign, including federal Labor MP for Charlton Greg Combet.
But a spokesman for Mr Albanese said it was an issue for the state government.