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Questions over train services after documents withheld

Local

The State Government has again “categorically ruled out” shutting or downgrading the Grange train service despite Labor claims the Transport Department has been “actively looking at closing the line or cutting services”.

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The Opposition submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure, seeking any “briefings, memos, minutes, emails and any other documents regarding the permanent closure or reduction in services on the Grange Train Line” under the Liberal Government.

The Grange line, which services the western suburbs, spans 13 kilometres and includes 10 stations.

DPTI CEO Tony Braxton-Smith responded to the request confirming the existence of relevant documents containing “matters relating to opinions and/or advice prepared for the purpose of the decision-making functions of the agency”, but refused to release them citing cabinet confidentiality and matters being “still under consideration”.

He said it was not in the public interest for the documents to be released because of “the importance of the issues discussed and the need to preserve confidentiality having regard to the subject matter of the communication and the circumstances in which it was made”.

Braxton-Smith did cite “the continuing relevance of those issues in relation to matters still under consideration”, but also “the extent to which premature disclosure may reveal sensitive information that may be misunderstood or misapplied by an ill-informed public”.

Two of the four documents deemed relevant to the information request contained drafts of a 10-Year Investment Plan and the Government’s long-awaited 20-Year Infrastructure Plan, which were both exempted from release as cabinet submissions.

The other two contained “opinion and/or advice prepared for the purpose of the decision-making functions of the agency”.

Braxton-Smith noted that “work is still in the preliminary stages with final decisions yet to be made, hence there is currently little information regarding specific details of this matter in the public domain”.

“In the circumstances, it is considered that disclosure of the documents will impair the need to protect the integrity and viability of the governmental decision-making process to a significant or substantial degree,” he wrote.

“There is no countervailing benefit to the public which outweighs that impairment and therefore it is contrary to the public interest to grant access.”

Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas argued the Government was “clearly actively considering the closure or cutting of the services on the Grange train line”.

“Questions have been put to the Government to release documents regarding the closure of the Grange line, and they’re refusing to do so – making it clear that they’re actively considering their options in this regard,” he told reporters today.

“Although it’s not the most patronised service on our network, it’s still tremendously important to people of the western suburbs… if the Government’s not considering cutting these services why not release the documents?”

The Marshall Government has previously “guaranteed” maintaining “the same service frequency levels and standards” on the network when it announced the privatisation of train and tram services last year.

A spokesman for Transport Minister Stephan Knoll accused Labor of “ once again fear-mongering and lying to South Australians because the State Government has already ruled out reducing services on the Grange line or closing the line”.

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