Grain freight rates to rise

Rueben HaleThe West Australian

CBH has warned growers in Tier 3 rail areas they could face up to 15 per cent hikes in grain freight rates.

Last week, CBH released its estimated freight rates for the 2014-15 harvest, with an average rate increase of about one per cent.

But it was an entirely different picture in Tier 3 line areas, with increases between 3 and 15 per cent at those sites.

A CBH spokeswoman said Tier 3 sites with the largest increases were those with the longest new road legs to a railhead.

The estimated 15 per cent rise applies to one site and comes on top of 2 per cent rises in storage and handling fees for 2014-15.

The spokeswoman said some sites would also have larger increases as they faced truck combination size downgrades because of restrictions and limitations on local routes and access roads.

"Main Road WA considers stacking distances, visibility, culverts and bridges in determining the category of road and then there may be conditions placed on the roads by the Shire," she said.

The spokeswoman said these estimates had been calculated in uncertain times as CBH continued to negotiate a rail access agreement with Brookfield Rail through the Economic Regulation Authority. "Presently, CBH has not been granted an extension to the current access agreement, therefore the estimated rates are likely to change if an extension is not granted," she said.

"The freight rates released are estimates only and may be reviewed during harvest to reflect any significant changes to expected delivery patterns, fuel prices and rail arrangements."

The estimated freight rates will be finalised in February 2015.

Quairading grower Rob Wilson said because he was in a Tier 3 area, he had known trucks would end up being more expensive than rail.

The estimated freight increase for Quairading is 5.3 per cent this season.

"It affects us in a few ways," Mr Wilson said.

"We can't shift the grain as quickly as we would like on road compared to rail.

"Road was always going to be dearer than the efficiency of rail.

"We now have 41 bins affected by Tier 3 closures and there's quite a lot of CBH/grower money tied up in fast-loading facilities for rail that are not being used.

"If Colin Barnett wants to do something about the Eastern Wheatbelt, he should get Brookfield Rail out of the picture."

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