PUBLIC safety along the Miling-Toodyay rail line will suffer, a local grower has warned, as doubt builds over the line's future.
Brookfield Rail chief executive Paul Larsen told Farm Weekly recently that the Tier 2 line is in need of significant upgrade before December 2016 and could be made redundant, due to its proximity to good condition lines out of McLevie and Moora.
But Miling grower and shire councillor Ken Seymour has warned already deteriorating shire roads will continue to degrade and threaten public safety if freight is forced onto the road in his region.
"About 500,000 tonnes of grain runs on that line each year," he said.
"We can cart either side to existing lines, but it will be at the expense of the shire's roads.
"The shire won't be able to fund that, so they'll have to go and see the State Government to get money that may not be forthcoming."
The Tier 2 Miling-Toodyay line was upgraded in 2003/04 and, along with a selection of Tier 3-rated rail lines, is the subject of negotiation for access between Brookfield Rail and CBH through the Economic Regulation Authority.
Mr Larsen said all of the lines in question required "significant" investment to make them safe for use and it would need CBH and the State Government to commit funds with Brookfield Rail for this to occur.
Mr Seymour said a rail line closure at Miling would force growers to use larger trucks or contract semi-trailers to make the longer trips worthwhile and an increased number of large trucks was the cause of damage to shire roads across the State.
"Everything to them is dollars but everything to us is dollars as well," he said.
"It's livelihood also - our families live on those roads and it's getting more and more dangerous."
In 2009, the Miling-Toodyay line was considered as a part of the Strategic Grain Network Report (SGNR), which outlined a preference for road upgrades for freight use instead of rail for certain areas.
Mr Larsen said due to the recent upgrade of the line at the time, it was left to industry to decide its long-term future closer to the need for upgrade of the line.
"We are ready and willing to negotiate a long term and sustainable access agreement with CBH under the Economic Regulation Authority process that provides much needed security and certainty to our WA farmers for the long term," he said.
The line, which has been operating at 20 per cent reduced operating capacity under instruction by Brookfield Rail due to the ageing line this harvest, was slated for upgrade by CBH in recent years but these plans were cancelled.
Mr Seymour said the key to ensuring the safety of the public and reducing impact on shire roads was keeping grain on rail.
"The shire would love to see, like most of the farmers, as much grain on rail as possible because the roads were not built and still haven't been built for road trains all the time or for the increasing traffic levels," he said.
"All shires Statewide are struggling to maintain roads from rates and last year the State Government took $70 million out of the infrastructure fund for roads throughout WA."
WAFarmers president Dale Park said the future of the Tier 3 lines and Miling-Toodyay line needed to be made clear to allow CBH to plan future upgrades.
He said WAFarmers believed as much grain needed to remain on rail as possible to avoid risking community safety.
"That line was done up only 10 years ago and they spent a lot of money on it and it was supposed to be good for 15 years," Mr Park said.
"Several years ago it started to be the least reliable of the whole lot because the way that they fixed it wasn't right."
Mr Park said the increased cost to growers when lines were shutdown through freight costs and time spent transporting grain needed to be a consideration in the review of rail line viability.