ARG’s laying the line

FIBRE-OPTIC cable is being installed along Western Australian railways, from Kwinana to Bunbury and from Perth to Kalgoorlie.

Australian Railroad Group, the company that bought the Westrail freight business, is upgrading its signalling system with fibre-optics because the original analogue overhead signal wires offer insufficient support to modern needs.

The company has completed 80 per cent of its Kwinana to Bunbury work and is negotiating with the Western Australian Government Railways Commission to install cable from Westrail Centre in East Perth to Midland.

At this stage it is understood the Kwinana to Bunbury installation is for ARG’s exclusive use.

But the cable being laid to Kalgoorlie will only partly be used for signalling purposes. It is being installed by a third party, which is paying ARG for access to its right of way, and is intended for commercial use.

ARG approved the project early last year and work began around the start of this financial year.

The WAGR Commission also is understood to be negotiating a separate deal for the installation of a significant amount of fibre-optic cable in other areas.

News of these developments follows Western Power’s confirmation last year that it was installing communications cable alongside underground power lines in South Perth and Como. A formal trial of the cable network by 200 households and businesses will begin in the middle of February.

AlintaGas also has confirmed it is considering the possibility of laying underground communi-cations cable conduits alongside its domestic gas pipelines. A spokesperson for the company said that, although it was not currently undertaking such work, it was not something that could be ruled out.

Since its privatisation last year, AlintaGas has been working to expand its revenue base beyond supplying gas, to include, for example, construction and maintenance. The company also is preparing to enter the electricity distribution market if and when this is deregulated, while it faces competition in gas retailing from Western Power, which is keen to expand its revenue base.

But according to one telecommunications insider, it is possible that AlintaGas’ declared interest in expansion is partly behind Western Power’s cable trial.

The source said there were rumours in the communications industry that AlintaGas was considering a move into electronic information provision, and an awareness of this could have forced Western Power to act.

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