Grain freight fears 'ill informed'

Opposition labelled as "ill informed" over claims lack of grain freight trains will increase truck numbers

By Michael House | November 4, 2009

The Victorian Opposition says a lack of grain trains to carry what is expected to be the State's biggest harvest in a decade will result in major damage to local council roads from excess truck use.

Opposition spokesman on agriculture Peter Walsh has called for an audit of how many trains are available to avoid road damage and give piece of mind to farmers who are concerned their crops will fail to reach the ports.

"If it’s [the grain] going to port it would be preferable that it went on rail instead of trucks because if the sizeable amounts of harvests are moved by trucks a lot of those movements will be on local government roads and our road network is not made to deal with such traffic," Walsh says.

"Local governments don’t have the finances to maintain these roads and repair such damage.

"I would like to see the government see what freight trains are available and let farmers know what is available so they can make plans to transport their produce.

Walsh says a number of grain trains have now left Victoria to work in the coal industry and cannot return because their gauges have been changed.

But the Brumby Government says Walsh is "ill informed", adding that there will be enough trains to carry 80 percent of the expected grain from farms to port and that road use will be kept to minimum.

"Estimates of the grain export transport task for the coming year are between 2 and 2.5 million tonnes and if trains are used efficiently and to capacity, each can carry 300,000 tonnes per annum," Public Transport Minister Lynne Kosky says.

"This means two million tonnes could be moved using six to seven trains.

"There will be some use of trucks, as there always is, but not at the exclusion of rail and we expect rail to handle about 80 per cent of the coming year’s export harvest, with road to handle the overflow and domestic needs."

Kosky says Grain Corp will make four trains available to the task, while AWB will ensure two train sets with the possibility of a third available for the harvest.

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