A DRAFT strategy to address challenges for more efficient transport of agricultural commodities and inputs across the Mid West, Wheatbelt, Great Southern and Goldfields-Esperance regions has been released for comment.
Outlining a co-ordinated approach to road, rail, intermodal terminals and port access projects over the next 10-15 years, the draft Revitalising Agricultural Region Freight Strategy - Responding to Change document is available on the Department of Transport website.
Comment on it is sought by July 12 and the State government hopes to have the completed strategy released before the end of the year.
The draft strategy was released for comment on Wednesday last week at CBH's Avon grain receival and rail terminal site near Northam by Transport Minister Rita Saffioti, accompanied by Jennacubbine farmer Darren West MLC, who is the parliamentary secretary to Regional Development, Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan.
Ms Saffioti also outlined an initial $10 million investment to upgrade key commodity routes comprising 20 secondary roads across 14 local government areas, predominantly in the Wheatbelt.
She said the projects would be carried out over the current and next financial years by local councils but under the financial control of Main Roads.
Ms Saffiotti said the $10m funding was allocated in this year's State budget as part of the government's commodity freight routes package but the works could not all be completed this year.
She said Main Roads called for project applications via the current Regional Road Group structure last July and a technical review group assessed proposals and ranked them according to agriculture freight movement and road safety improvement.
Ms Saffioti said most of the 20 freight route projects had been raised in extensive consultation with the agriculture industry, transport operators, local government and government agencies in developing the draft agricultural region freight strategy.
The draft strategy acknowledges WA's agriculture and food sector represents about 10 per cent of the State's economy and is a significant source of employment, providing more than 30,000 jobs.
The freight task is immense, with millions of tonnes of product moved on the road and rail network every year, but while farm size, agricultural machinery, heavy vehicle combinations and train lengths have expanded rapidly, supply chain infrastructure has not kept pace, it acknowledges.
This includes road and rail networks, intermodal interfaces between networks and containerisation terminals, as well as regulatory systems and processes.
The State's agricultural export value was $7.7 billion in 2015-16, which included key export commodities of wheat, barley, canola, wool and livestock, with grains in particular facing increased competition on global markets from low-cost producers with low-cost supply chains, the draft strategy points out.
It claims to identify where the most effective infrastructure investments and regulatory improvements can be made to achieve the objectives of having connected and continuous supply chains, seamless integration between road and rail, an optimised infrastructure and policy environment, improved transport efficiency, improved road safety and regional economic growth.
Ten key challenges are identified in the draft strategy.
These include regional road safety issues, larger harvests and increasing competition, increasing demand for heavy vehicle access, deficient road and rail infrastructure in some areas, limited data on some freight aspects, limited transport options for some supply chains and deficient infrastructure funding systems.
It concentrates on improving transport efficiencies for five high-volume agricultural products - grain, livestock, hay, fertiliser and agricultural lime.
The draft strategy identifies 21 infrastructure projects and several non-infrastructure projects it deems a priority for improved agricultural productivity and a more efficient agricultural transport supply chain.
These projects include upgrading rail lines and improving access for longer trains with higher axle loadings, building new regional intermodal terminals and upgrading roads to allow for heavy vehicle access.
The draft strategy lists the proposed projects as:
p Mid West: rail line improvements Watheroo-Geraldton and Mullewa-Perenjori, increased heavy vehicle access to Geraldton Port and targeted road network investment.
p Wheatbelt: Rail line improvements at Northam in conjunction with establishing an intermodal container terminal, also Millendon Junction-Watheroo with a container terminal and Brookton-Northam with a container terminal.
Improvements to rail lines north-east of Northam, Northam-Southern Cross and Miling-Toodyay are also proposed, as well as targeted road network investment for increased heavy vehicle access throughout the Wheatbelt and to Perth.
p Great Southern: Rail line improvements Albany-Hyden/Newdegate coupled with an intermodal terminal and targeted road network investment including increased heavy vehicle access to Albany Port.
p Great Southern: Targeted road network investment.
p Goldfields-Esperance: Rail line improvements Esperance-Salmon Gums, increased heavy vehicle access to Esperance Port and targeted local road network investment.
Various non-region specific and other initiatives have been identified to improve the transport supply chain, including investigating toll roads and other road funding mechanisms, including WA rail lines in the National Land Transport Network, forward planning for ageing and high priority bridge structures and a review of level crossing agreements for disused Tier 3 rail corridors to resolve stacking distance issues for heavy vehicles.
Ms Saffioti said once the strategy was finalised and approved it would form a framework to enable funding commitments to be sought from various sources, including users, leasers and the various levels of government.
"What we've really wanted to do as a government is to develop comprehensive strategies that can help target our spending and also enable us to go to the commonwealth and seek contributions," Ms Saffioti said.
"With the agricultural and food sector representing about 10pc of WA's economy, we need to ensure our crucial transport supply chains continue to improve, helping our key regional agricultural areas prepare for future growth.
"The draft Revitalising Agricultural Region Freight Strategy identifies high priority infrastructure investments and regulatory improvements to help enhance efficiency, safety and economic growth of our agricultural sector - which are central to our ability to compete on a global scale.
"Having an endorsed strategy will help the State government apply for further commonwealth funding for regional transport infrastructure.
"They (Federal government) want to see State government and local government working together with prioritised projects."
Ms Saffioti said a co-ordinated approach had already had "some success" with the 42 shires that participated in the Wheatbelt Secondary Freight Network review obtaining a commitment in April for $70m in commonwealth funding.
She acknowledged that while the State government could aim for improvements in efficiency in rail transport of bulk agricultural commodities, it had no control over the cost of using rail to freight commodities and that situation was unlikely to change in the near future.
Arc Infrastructure, part of the Canadian controlled multi-national Brookfield conglomerate, still has 30 years to run on its lease of WA's freight rail network which enables it to set freight rail charges.
CBH Group, which accumulates 90pc of WA's grain, has been locked in an arbitration battle with Arc Infrastructure for more than three years trying to reach an agreement on a costs schedule for the next 10 years to run its grain trains on Arc's tracks.
CBH general manager operation Ben Macnamara said CBH welcomed the development of the Revitalising Agricultural Regional Freight Strategy and was reviewing the draft strategy paper.
"CBH has given practical and programtic imput to the development of the strategy, including data on forecast grain production growth and efficient freight operating principles for its supply chain,'' Mr Macnamara said.
"We look forward to continuing our engagement with the department to achieve outcomes that will have lasting impacts for the State's grain growing regions.''
Mr West said that local councils needed help with commodity freight routes, many of which were their responsibility as local roads to maintain and upgrade, although the bulk of the traffic may be generated outside of the shire.
The $10m investment announced last week was part of providing that help, Mr West said.
"It's important we put State government investment into those (local roads)," he said.
"It also helps create local jobs and helps local economies by doing that work locally, but ultimately it gives us better, safer and more efficient roads."
The draft Revitalising Agricultural Region Freight Strategy - Responding to Change document is available at transport.wa.gov.au/ FreightPorts/revitalising-agriculturalregion-freight-strategy.asp
THE 20 secondary freight roads to be upgraded over the next two years with $10m allocated in this year's State budget are:
Shire of Corrigin: Resurfacing 11.98km of Bulyee Road in 2019-20.
Shire of Dandaragan: Reconstructing and drainage improvements to 1.7km of North West Road in 2019-20.
Shire of Dowerin: Reconstructing, resurfacing and drainage improvements to 3.3km of Dowerin Koorda Road in 2019-20.
Shire of Goomalling: Reconstructing 5.84km of Goomalling-Calingiri Road in 2019-20.
p Shire of Kellerberrin: Reconstructing, widening and drainage improvements to 2.92km of Kellerberrin-Bencubbin Road in 2019-20.
Reconstructing, resealing, reshaping and drainage improvements to 1.04km of Mather Road in 2019-20.
Reshaping, resurfacing, stabilising and drainage improvements to 2.38km of Dowding Road in 2019-20.
Shire of Mingenew: Widening 9.51km of Coalseam Road in 2019-20.
Shire of Moora: Reconstructing 18 km of Miling North Road in 2019-20.
Town of Narrogin: Stabilising and resealing 2.83km of Cooraminning Road in 2019-20.
Shire of Northam: Widening and resealing 3.07km of Southern Brook Road in 2019-20.
Shire of Pingelly: Geometry improvements and widening to 2.79km of Wickepin-Pingelly Road in 2019-20
Shire of Plantagenet: Resealing and stabilising 5.89km of Woogenellup Road in 2019-20.
Resurfacing 7.87km of Chillinup Road in 2019-20.
Second sealing of 4.32km of Palmdale Road in 2020-21.
Second sealing of 6.46km of Yellanup Road in 2020-21.
Reconstructing 11.45km of Mallawillup Road in 2019-20.
Shire of Wongan-Ballidu: Reconstructing and widening 2km of Hospital Road in 2019-20.
Shire of Wyndham East Kimberley: Design work for 10.65km of Carlton Hill Road in 2019-20.
Shire of Yilgarn: Reconstructing 2.2km of Bodallin South Road in 2019-20.