Mr PETER DRAPER (Tamworth) [9.43 p.m.]: The proud role that the small town of Werris Creek has played in this State's rail heritage and history is continuing following the successful launch of the Australian railway monument last month. This monument pays tribute to the 2,087 men and women who have given their lives serving the railways and the people of New South Wales. It was opened officially on 1 October by the Deputy Premier, and Minister for Transport, John Watkins. I thank the Minister for taking the time to come to Werris Creek on a Saturday and perform those duties. Coupled with the Railway Journeys Museum located at the railway station, Werris Creek has become a must-see destination for rail enthusiasts and for the many visitors to the district simply interested in the history of our State.
Tonight I wish to inform the House that through the investment of rail freight company, Pacific National, the tradition of involvement in rail is continuing today in Werris Creek. Pacific National has its northern New South Wales headquarters in this community, and I had great pleasure accepting an invitation from Pacific National's Communications Manager, Michael Charlton, and Northern Regional Manager, Tony Halman, to tour the facility. Pacific National is Australia's largest private rail freight operator offering a seamless national logistics service for containerised freight, coal, industrial and agricultural products. Across Australia, it has around 2,900 staff, 450 locomotives, 10,000 wagons and 80 sites.
Pacific National's operations are divided into three main divisions—coal, intermodal or containers—and rural and bulk including grain, fuel, agricultural products, concrete and many other varieties. The Werris Creek operation includes a large-scale maintenance facility, which employs quite a few people. In Werris Creek Pacific National employs more than 80 train crew, 11 terminal operators, 18 maintainers to look after locomotives and wagons, and perform all sorts of maintenance and upgrades, three administration staff, and four management positions—a total of 117 jobs for Werris Creek locals, making Pacific National the largest employers in town by some way.
The Werris Creek operations run 27 train services a week out of the facility with a yearly tonnage of 2.5 million tonnes—2 million tonnes of that is for the export market and 500,000 is consumed domestically. When I toured the facility they operated seven or eight coal train services a week from Werris Creek to Newcastle with an annual tonnage of 1.4 million tonnes, but with the new coalmine now operating near Werris Creek that figure is expected to rise to 2 million. There are three container train services per week carrying more than 12,000 containers per annum. Three flour train services also run weekly from Werris Creek. This truly is a large-scale operation.
Pacific National has been able to succeed in some areas where the State Rail Authority has struggled. Pacific National and the unions have an enterprise agreement that has already cut lost time through accidents by 20 per cent, solidified the commitment to random drug and alcohol testing, introduced a fatigue management system, established a safety committee and instituted a bank of 1,760 hours per 12 months for each employee. This bank-of-hours agreement simplifies what used to be a complicated area for train drivers and reportedly has been received well.
Tomorrow I will meet with Xtrata, one of the major players in the coal operations in Australia. It has indicated that there are significant opportunities for further development, apart from the mine operated by Keith Ross, which has been up and running for a number of months, creating significant employment in the district. There is now an opportunity for an even larger operation to be put in place, with Government permission and all the environmental requirements being met by the company. The future prospects for the local area are very exciting. I thank Michael Charlton and Tony Halman for the invitation to tour the Werris Creek facility. I was extremely impressed. I enjoyed the experience. I also thank all of the staff I met on the tour, at the operations base, and at the barbecue afterwards. I learnt a great deal about how the company is contributing so much to the local community. I wish Pacific National every success for the future, especially with its Werris Creek operations.