End of a rail era

It is a disappointing conclusion to the rich history of rail in the area

THE announcement last week that Viterra will not extend its Mallee rail agreement beyond July 31, signals the end of an era for Southern Australia.

Viterra is the only user of the two Mallee rail lines, owned by Genesee & Wyoming Australia, and there has been no indication another customer will be found.

So it is expected that the lines will close in the near future.

It is a disappointing conclusion to the rich history of rail in the area, and indeed for most of the state.

SA's first railway was built in 1854, and until the introduction of semi-trailers, B-doubles and the like, trains played a key role in the transport of agricultural goods from across the state.

While trains continue to run in metropolitan areas, few lines still operate in regional areas, except for interstate freight and passenger trains.

In the Mid North of SA, events such as the 1983 Ash Wednesday Bushfire destroyed much of the line near Clare, and it was closed, never to re-open.

The two Mallee lines that run from Pinnaroo and Tookyerta, near Loxton, to Tailem Bend, had remained open thanks to an ongoing agreement between Viterra, and GWA.

A 12-month contract signed in August last year agreed to keep the lines open, but a report revealing that $700 million would need to be spent to maintain and upgrade the tracks made its fate inevitable.

The question remains as to what future the silos along these tracks have?

And whether the surrounding network will stand-up to increased traffic, predicted to be an extra 3000 B-doubles a year travelling on the roads.

The decision is particularly disappointing considering that earlier this month in Vic, its state government committed up to $220m for the Murray Basin Rail Project.

Similar government funding in SA has long since dried up - and with it the prospect of a prosperous rail network.

Vale Mallee rail.

FarmOnline
Miranda Kenny

Miranda Kenny

is the editor of Stock Journal
A matter of opinionA selection of editorials from around the Fairfax Agricultural Media group covering the issues of the week.

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