GRAINGROWERS on the Narrogin to Kulin Tier 3 rail line will have welcomed the recent announcement by the State Transport Minister Rita Saffiotti of the funding allocation of $72 million to rebuild this rail line.
This is the first win growers on the 770 kilometres of lines have had in the 22 years since the rail network was sold.
No doubt the growing awareness of the cost of closing these lines in terms of road damage, road accidents, carbon emissions and farmers' freight bills has helped sway the decision.
But the other, until now hidden, cost of rail over road efficiency has also come into play.
Why because of the "lost opportunity cost" of the Western Australian grain harvest not being able to be transported and loaded fast enough to be sold before the start of the massive northern hemisphere harvest.
As our grain harvest has grown from 10 to 15 million tonnes to 15-25mt, our rail system has failed to keep up with production.
This problem has been compounded with the sale and lease of the WA rail network in 2000 for 49 years and the subsequent shut down of the Tier 3 lines.
Those lines are today needed to help move up to a quarter of our annual harvest.
Arguments that it was not viable to upgrade these lines or that it was not possible to reach agreement with the leasehold owners have now proved to be a strawman argument.
For too long CBH has hidden behind modelling where we could not challenge the methodology or assumptions which justified their position that the numbers did not add up.
Today we all have to ask, what are the numbers that makes all these old lines viable again?
We for the first time can see the basis of an equation of the additional tonnages that are needed to justify the cost of reinstating the lines.
In this case the back of the envelope equation is east Wickepin Koalin mine adds the additional one million tonnes to justify the 50km of line.
We suspect it is far less than that and in fact when benchmarked against other rail investments a heavy public good discount should be included.
Of instance if the government will fund $72m for about 50km of rural line in WA and $5.7b for 72km of Metronet lines and $14b for 1700km of the Melbourne Brisbane inland rail line then no doubt they can justify funding the remaining 700km of Tier 3 lines in WA at a cost of about $1b.
As growers we thank this Labor State government for listening to us on grain rail freight.
We look forward to working with them to finish the job.
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