Arbitrator near rail access fix for ongoing dispute

Headshot of Cally Dupe
Cally DupeCountryman
The arbitrator is weighing up a range of options to possibly resolve Arc Infrastructure and CBH’s grain rail dispute.
Camera IconThe arbitrator is weighing up a range of options to possibly resolve Arc Infrastructure and CBH’s grain rail dispute. Credit: Supplied

An independent arbitrator is reportedly just weeks away from potentially ending a long deadlock between Arc Infrastructure and CBH over grain on rail in WA.

It would end a more than five year battle over access to the rail network which has led to two interim access agreements to keep grain on rain in the short term.

CBH triggered the arbitration process with Arc in early 2016, after formal negotiations to gain long-term access to Arc’s rail network failed.

CBH employs contractor Watco to operate its locomotives and wagons to cart grain from its upcountry sites to port.

The grain marketer and handler has been carting grain on Arc’s country rail lines under an interim agreement while the arbitrator nuts out a deal.

Both interim agreements allowed the use of the Tier 1 and Tier 2 lines.

While the arbitrator was expected to call an end to the deadlock by the end of last year, the tussle continued.

Talks have focused on fees and usage charges under the existing regime defined by the Railways (Access) Act 1998 and Railways (Access) Code 2000.

The existing regime is widely seen as unworkable because it fails to provide the required structure and certainty to act as an effective backstop when commercial negotiations between access seekers and railway owners fail.

Farmers have raised concerns the lengthy arbitration process has stalled investment in the railway line and affected the roll-out of CBH’s $750 million network strategy.

Details of the deal are being kept confidential until negotiations are finalised, and whether it would will lead to the reopening of any of the Tier 3 lines is unknown.

Arc, formerly Brookfield Rail, holds a 49-year lease on WA’s entire rail network after the State Government controversially leased the lines to the company in 2000.

Arc closed all Tier 3 lines in 2014, claiming they were unviable, despite a long-running campaign by WA farmers.

Since the closure of the 509km of track, growers have raised concerns about the impact of an estimated 30,000 extra truck movements in WA.

Arc and CBH declined to comment on the agreement or the arbitration process this week, both citing confidentiality.

A CBH spokesman said the company was seeking a “fair price for long-term access to the WA grain rail freight network”.

Get the latest news from in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails