Shire call for Tier 3 certainty

31 Oct, 2013 01:00 AM
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Bruce Rock shire president Stephen Strange is certain that an increase in road freight, versus rail freight, will end up costing lives.
Bruce Rock shire president Stephen Strange is certain that an increase in road freight, versus rail freight, will end up costing lives.

SHIRE presidents from Quairading and Bruce Rock believe residents in their districts are starting to panic as the long-term future of the Tier 3 lines remains unclear.

CBH general manager of operations David Capper announced late last week that CBH and Brookfield Rail had negotiated an interim access agreement on the remaining Tier 3 lines that will allow access until June 30, 2014.

However beyond this point there is no certainty, with negotiations between CBH and Brookfield Rail still in progress.

The overarching message from both Quairading shire president Daryl Richards and Bruce Rock shire president Stephen Strange is that there will, without a doubt, be fatalities if the State Government does not intervene and guarantee the future of Tier 3.

Mr Richards said the simple fact of the matter was that the majority of country roads were not up to scratch.

"While $10.5 million had been invested to complete works on the Quairading to Cunderdin Road two years ago, and a further $10.5m announced this year for works on the Quairading to York road, there hasn't been enough time to complete the works," Mr Richards said.

"We've still got 18 months to two years left, taking into consideration the acquisition of land, road realignments and then doing the roads."

And it isn't just the quality of roads that is in question.

According to Mr Richards, there are bridges in the shire that have not been designed to withstand the ongoing pressure.

"We have a bridge near Wackett's Road which trucks can currently go over, that is being monitored closely for cracks," he said.

"We went and saw it last week and there were obvious fractures developing in it.

"Although it's not a Main Roads road, they have told us that if any more cracks look like they're developing, they will consider reducing the tonnage on that bridge back to seven tonne."

Mr Richards said that recent works completed on the Quairading to York Road had been made to the "newest" section of the road, built some 40-years-ago.

And while strip widening had been carried out, this has made little difference to the state or safety of the original road which is breaking away.

"This is really concerning because we haven't even started harvest yet," Mr Richards said.

"There are also no overtaking lanes between Quairading to York or Quairading to Cunderdin. It's an absolute joke and people are getting increasingly wound up about safety.

"We all know down the track what's going to happen and when it does it's really going to hurt the communities – there will be a fatality – we're all sure of it.

"You can almost feel it and with a record harvest coming on, it's just not a good feel out there – everyone's on tenterhooks."

Bruce Rock shire president Stephen Strange said similar road concerns could be witnessed between Bruce Rock and Shackleton.

While there had been a considerable allocation of funds to improve key roads through the shire, this work is still 18 months from completion.

"There are places on that stretch of road, which were updated in April, that have already begun to lift," Mr Strange said.

Like his Quairading counterpart, Mr Strange is certain that an increase in road freight, versus rail freight, will end up costing lives.

But lives are not all it may cost.

"At the end of the day it's going to be the ratepayer that pays for maintenance on these roads," he said.

"Once the local roads collapse it's going to be up to the local ratepayer to pay for them to be fixed up and then it will be up to the farmers to fork out the cash."

Mr Strange believes if Tier 3 lines are off limits next year, the cost of maintaining roads will result in a three to five per cent rise in shire rates.

"Whether it's in five or 10 years when these roads start to collapse, we will have to raise rates," he said.

"And that's just to carry the grain, so that will be passed straight on to the grain growers because we won't have any other option.

"If Tier 3 is out of action it's going to have a huge impact on the industry, and when the true cost of roads is factored in, transport costs could rise by $10 a tonne."

According to Mr Strange, safety concerns around the road could also significantly influence where parents in rural communities send their children to school.

"When people are making decisions about their children's education they will be factoring in which route the school bus will take, and if it's on a grain freight route...well that's a good enough reason to send them to another school," he said.

"And with the Year Seven scenario, people will start questioning what they're even doing here.

"People are just going to pack their bags; this really is the last nail in the coffin."

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READER COMMENTS

avoid costly rail
31/10/2013 8:27:36 AM, on Farm Weekly

The obvious future and one which these shire presidents ignore or are ignorant of is the grain industry's structure is dramatically changing...and for the better! Take for instance the Bunge project at Bunbury which will deliver a cheaper more direct path to port vs an antiquated costly monopolistic system CBH has and desperate to retain. Yes some roads need fixing but while shire presidents campaign for CBH the govt will play you like CBH has and ignore the road issue. Get offrail, receive a reduction in supply chain costs and focus on getting better roads for all citizens of the Wheatbelt.
Mr Mace
31/10/2013 10:08:16 AM, on Farm Weekly

you seem to miss the point of this whole situation "avoid costly rail" - the roads will never be up to standard where thousands of truck movement will use them yearly. It is obvious you are some city person who hasn't ventured into the central wheatbelt and looked at the roads that they want to use, some which were put down just after WW2.
avoid costly rail
31/10/2013 2:42:59 PM, on Farm Weekly

Mr Mace I have driven some Wheatbelt roads and have found them generally fit for purpose but admit I do not possess an intimate knowledge of them all. Interestingly the total freight task for the Wheatbelt is not that large, in fact comparing it to other parts of rural Australia it is quite small. All I am saying is, until shire presidents and other individuals stop this irrational and uneconomic campaign around tier 3 rail, the road issue, if it is real, will be lost. Make no mistake though, CBH is on the nose in business and government circles.
Someone of Corrigin
31/10/2013 7:55:10 PM, on Farm Weekly

Avoid Costly Rail, please explain how rail is more costly than road. Rail is cheaper to build and maintain far safer and more fuel efficient than road transport. And on the subject of shires protests, the protest from the Corrigin shire is deafening. The Corrigin shire is a real lame duck when it comes to tier 3 rail.

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