WA’s rail opportunities

THERE should be more to WA’s rail freight business than grain and minerals, says World Rail president Ed Burkhardt.

Mr Burkhardt is advising the Black Swan Rail consortium that is one of four tenderers for Westrail’s $250 million a year freight business.

The Black Swan consortium is made up of the US-based Railroad Development Corporation and Barclay Mowlem.

The other bidders are the Australian Railroad Group, Freight WA and Western Freight. Final bids for the 5,000 kilometre rail network are due in October.

Mr Burkhardt said fertiliser cartage was one way to expand Westrail’s freight business.

“I have never seen such a big farming area that doesn’t move fertiliser by rail,” he said.

“There are also back-end opportunities for grain customers.

“Hay and pellets and other containerised freight is another option.

“I would like to look at moving livestock by rail.”

Mr Burkhardt said while Westrail was an efficient operation, it could “use less bureaucracy”.

“We have ideas on improved wagons, locomotives and maintenance procedures.

“Westrail could be more aggressive in its markets.”

Mr Burkhardt said if Black Swan’s bid was successful, freight customers would see improve-ments within months.

“We’d be calling on all our customers to see how we could improve our business with them and looking at additional market areas.

“There is business there. It’s a matter of how to make the most of it.”

“Customers will inevitably see freight charge drops. These would come out of meetings with our customers.”

Mr Burkhardt guarantees Black Swan will help make WA businesses internationally compet-itive.

“We’re not only competing with road transport on price. We have to work with our customers to get their commodities onto ships below world price,” he said.

“We have to keep our customers healthy in their markets or we’re just going to be sitting there looking at empty tracks.”

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