CBH boss hints co-op could one day take rail operations ‘in-house’ but is happy with Aurizon for now

Headshot of Cally Dupe
Cally DupeCountryman
A CBH train collects grain at CBH Group's Brookton site.
Camera IconA CBH train collects grain at CBH Group's Brookton site. Credit: Cally Dupe/Countryman

CBH chief executive Ben Macnamara has hinted the co-operative could one day insource its train operations and run its own rail business to get millions of tonnes of WA farmers’ grain to port.

But any decision on that major move would be at least four years away, CBH two years into a six-year agreement with the nation’s biggest rail operator Aurizon and Mr Macnamara saying the deal was producing “pleasing” results.

Speaking to media last week after announcing plans to buy more than $400 million worth of new wagons and locomotives, Mr Macnamara was probed on the matter of whether CBH would consider taking its rail operations in-house.

CBH chief executive Ben Macnamara.
Camera IconCBH chief executive Ben Macnamara. Credit: Cally Dupe/CBH Group

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“That’s always an option, but there would need to be work done on that to assess if we would ‘in-source; that effectively,” he said.

“But no, we have worked really proactively with Aurizon. . . they have done a fantastic job getting grain to port.”

CBH is two years into a six-year agreement with national rail operator Aurizon to cart grain to port, and last year leased three of its rail fleets to boost efforts to get grain to port.

It announced the arrangement in August 2021, after cancelling its 10-year contractor with Watco six months early and swapping to Aurizon after taking its above-rail operations to market in April 2020.

Mr Macnamara said Aurizon’s ability to on-board and train drivers had been one of the biggest advantages of the arrangement — which has two, two-year options to extend.

The six-year deal was rumoured to be worth $30 million but CBH has declined to confirm.

“What has been really pleasing over the past 12 or so months is Aurizon’s ability to bring those drivers on, train them up and have their root knowledge up to speed,” Mr Macnamara said.

“That has benefitted us over the past nine months where we have had month-on-month rail records.

“This has enabled us to get more grain to each of our ports this year. . . we are some 30 per cent ahead of where we were last year and Aurizon has played a big role in getting that grain to port.”

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