24/04/2009 - 12:47

Divisions in rural freight plan

24/04/2009 - 12:47

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A newly launched campaign to maintain the transport of grain on rail instead of roads has put the state's farm groups at odds.

A newly launched campaign to maintain the transport of grain on rail instead of roads has put the state's farm groups at odds.

The Pastoralists and Graziers Association has refuted claims that it supports grain on rail campaign, which is lobbying the state and federal governments to upgrade WA's rail network.

The campaign, a community information driven initiative, was launched as both state and federal governments signal their strong intention to support nation building infrastructure projects.

PGA claims WestNet included the association as one of the backers for the Grain on Rail campaign.

"At no stage has PGA committed to this campaign because our support is for far more realistic and effective solutions to WA's grain freight problems," PGA vice chairman Rick Wilson said.

"Like the general public, PGA has never been privy to many of the real facts and anomalies to this taxpayer/grower-funded 'benefit' in favour of WestNet, ARG and CBH."

WestNet, CBH, Australian Railroad Group (ARG) and the WA Local Government Association all say there has been 300,000 additional trucks on WA roads each year.

"If you live on any of the transport routes through to a port - whether that's Kwinana, Albany, Geraldton - you would see a huge increase in the amount of road traffic during harvest," WestNet general manager Paul Larsen said.

CBH estimates the impacts on the port of Kwinana alone could mean as many as 50,000 additional truck trips per harvest.

"Industry stands ready to commit its $133 million share, and is seeking commitments from both the State and Federal Governments to match its investment. Our campaign is about better informing people of the importance and the urgency of this investment," said Mr Larsen.

"$400 million - shared equally three ways between industry, State and Federal Government and invested over a five year period - will secure the network for the next period of its lifespan."

Mr Wilson said there are "far better solutions" to the grain freight problem like "new standard gauge links that will allow train turnarounds of 20 hours or less between regional storages and ports such as Narrogin and Albany, with upgraded road services feeding into them".

"The provision of better roads with more passing lanes to service these new lines would not only vastly improve efficiency, but also public road safety and offer major benefits for non-grain freight and traffic," he said.

He added that it was "mischievous" of the group to mount a campaign based on warning city people of the dangers of grain trucks on country roads.

"The reality is not only that the 1920's rail system they are trying to prop up is hopelessly inefficient, misdirected and out-of-date, but also that its ongoing neglect by Westnet Rail, ARG and CBH has finally caught up because of the new pressures of a deregulated grain market," Mr Wilson said.

"PGA does not want to see more grower investment directed at enhancing former monopolies.

"The clear need is for new least-cost-pathways for all freight services that also support WA's developing role as a major supplier of grain to the world."

 

The PGA and WestNet announcements are below:

 

 

PGA

PGA Western Graingrowers has debunked claims that it is supporting the new Grain on Rail campaign with calls for a major rethink of WA's grain freight problems.

WGG Chairman Rick Wilson said newspaper reports quoting Westnet Rail General Manager Paul Larsen claiming PGA support for the Grain on Rail campaign were untrue.

"At no stage has PGA committed to this campaign because our support is for a far more realistic and effective solution to WA's grain freight problems," Mr Wilson said.

"Like the general public, PGA has never been privy to many of the real facts and anomalies to this taxpayer/grower-funded 'benefit' in favour of Westnet Rail, ARG and CBH.

"We believe there are far better solutions to the grain freight problem, services like new standard gauge links that will enable train turnarounds of 20 hours or less between regional storages and ports such as Narrogin and Albany, with upgraded road services feeding into them.

"The provision of better roads with more passing lanes to service these new lines would not only vastly improve efficiency, but also public road safety and offer major benefits for non-grain freight and traffic."

Mr Wilson said the PGA had made its views known to the Federal and State Governments, and this was probably why the Grain on Rail campaigners were keen to implicate the PGA. He said it was mischievous of the group to mount a campaign based on warning city people of the dangers of grain trucks on country roads.

"The reality is not only that the 1920's rail system they are trying to prop up is hopelessly inefficient, misdirected and out-of-date, but also that its ongoing neglect by Westnet Rail, ARG and CBH has finally caught up because of the new pressures of a deregulated grain market."

"PGA does not want to see more grower investment directed at enhancing former monopolies.

"The clear need is for new least-cost-pathways for all freight services that also support WA's developing role as a major supplier of grain to the world.

"Fortunately we believe this is a vision shared by the State and Federal Governments.

 

WESTNET

West Australians will be forced to share the road with 300,000 additional trucks per year if Government fails to act now to upgrade the State's grain freight rail network, a new industry campaign will inform the public today.

WestNet Rail, with the support of Cooperative Bulk Handling and Australian Railroad Group, will this morning launch a community information campaign to keep grain on rail, and in doing so, keep thousands off trucks off regional and metropolitan roads.

"The community needs to be better informed about the value of its grain freight network, and problems that would be created if millions of tonnes of grain is forced off rail and onto roads," said Paul Larsen, General Manager WestNet Rail.

"The campaign, which consists of a series of advertisements and an informative website will engage the community in the current debate to further encourage Government to invest in the critical regional rail infrastructure," he said.

The public is encouraged to log on to www.grainonrail.com.au to find out more.

"If you live on any of the transport routes through to a port - whether that's Kwinana, Albany, Geraldton - you would see a huge increase in the amount of road traffic during harvest," said Mr Larsen.

Cooperative Bulk Handling estimates that the impacts on the port of Kwinana alone could mean as many as 50,000 additional truck trips per harvest.

"Both State and Federal Government have publicly stated their strong intentions to support significant nation building infrastructure projects in these difficult economic times," said Mr Larsen.

"Industry stands ready to commit its $133 million share, and is seeking commitments from both the State and Federal Governments to match its investment. Our campaign is about better informing people of the importance and the urgency of this investment," said Mr Larsen.

"$400 million - shared equally three ways between industry, State and Federal Government and invested over a five year period - will secure the network for the next period of its lifespan.

"A Government commitment to keep grain on rail would be a long-term, visionary demonstration of Government's will to invest in our regions and invest in this vital export industry," said Mr Larsen.

"Further, it would unlock $133 million private investment waiting to be poured into regional Western Australia - creating jobs, securing the future of the network, and providing significant environmental and road safety benefits."

Keeping grain on rail:

- Will keep 300,000 trucks off the road - ensuring safer driving conditions for West Australians in regional areas, and on the roads feeding ports (including Kwinana, Geraldton and Albany).

- Saves the Government having to spend $400 million on road infrastructure to support the grain task, should it have to switch transport modes.

- Would demonstrate the Government's stated commitment to invest in regional communities and investing in national building infrastructure projects.

- Provides grain growers with the most efficient transport option for moving their grain to port for export

- Supports the State's critical $4.5 billion grain industry

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