Breakthrough near on freight impasse

26 Jun, 2009 02:00 AM
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AGREEMENT has been reached on a three-stage process that will map out the short, medium and long term future of WA's grain rail freight network.

The strategy was agreed to last week at the first meeting of the recently formed Strategic Grain Network Committee (SGNC).

Key grains industry participants have a seat on the SGNC, including WAFarmers, the Pastoralists and Graziers Association (PGA), CBH, WestNet Rail, ARG, and relevant government departments.

They will now provide advice on their future requirements for the state's grain logistics system, to assist the Government with its decision-making processes.

Most analysts agree the network needs a combination of road and rail transport infrastructure, to provide a cost effective pathway to port for WA growers, who export the vast majority of their produce.

Originally, the WA Local Government Association (WALGA) was not included in the review process, but has since been added to the committee that will be chaired by former Planning and Transport Research Centre executive director Fred Affleck.

Several committee members were contacted by Farm Weekly, but declined to comment saying they were prevented from commenting until after a media release was put out by Transport Minister Simon O'Brien's office.

However, it is understood SGNC members were happy with the result of last week's meeting and the process that has been agreed to.

The first stage of the three-phased approach will be to provide Mr O'Brien with advice on the immediate issue of service withdrawals on the rail network, by the end of July.

On June 16, WestNet Rail, which leases the grain rail network from the State Government, announced it had closed four lines on the grain rail network.

Its decision came after the State Government refused to provide funding in its latest budget, to pay for major re-sleepering work required to repair the grain frail network.

As part of the immediate response, the SGNC will look at WestNet Rail's resubmitted request for $50 million in State Government funding to re-sleeper the Northam to Albany line.

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