By Claire Ottaviano
PREMIER Mark McGowan reaffirmed the State’s commitment to manufacture the next generation of WA trains in Midland after allegations the Bellevue railcar manufacturing and assembly facility would only be used to assemble, not build, the new C-series railcars.
The allegations were fed last week by signage at the site, where the facility is currently being built, which reads ‘Railcar Assembly Facility’.
In August 2019, Mr McGowan announced the return of railcar manufacturing to Midland with 50 per cent of the later announced $1.25 billion contract to be delivered locally.
In response to claims the facility’s purpose had changed since first announced, the Premier confirmed the facility was for both the manufacturing and assembling of rail cars and signage would be updated immediately to show this.
“Earlier this year I turned the sod to mark the start of construction on our new Bellevue Railcar Manufacturing and Assembly Facility in Midland,” he said.
“It is on track to be completed in late 2020 and will be handed over to Alstom for fit out before local workers begin manufacturing and assembling our new C-Series railcars.
“At least 50 per cent of the contract value will be delivered locally in line with our local content policy we took to the 2017 State Election.”
The METRONET railcar webpage, which last week read railcar “assembly” facility now reads “manufacturing and assembly” facility.
Former Midland Workshops electro plater Brad Bedford said the Friends of Midland Workshops was not convinced by Mr McGowan’s reconfirmed commitment.
“On behalf of the Friends of Midland Workshops committee, we believe it’s more of an assembly facility than a manufacturing workshop,” he said.
“In my opinion, they’ll be importing parts from overseas, that’s our impression from our experience in the rail industry.”
When asked what evidence the group had against Mr McGowan’s word Mr Bedford said they would “have to wait and see” whether the finished project delivered on its promise.
Mr Bedford was supported by Bellevue’s Avtech Engineering managing director Steven Delfos who said he also believed the site would only be used for assembly.
“The word assembly is the primary word here and people who assemble stuff can still be called a manufacturer,” he said.
“You have to look at the definition of manufacturing, that’s the bit I say is not going to happen there.
“For me, manufacturing is turning raw materials into finished goods on site.”
Despite the terminology, Mr Delfos supported the positive effects of the project on local industry.
The METRONET website says the Bellevue facility will include a 180m-long building with a railcar assembly area, offices, workshops and storage areas, two overhead cranes able to lift 25 tonne each and a heavy maintenance railroad.