Miling growers face fee rise

Rueben HaleThe West Australian

Graingrowers who deliver to the bins on the Miling line face an above-average rates increase.

Last week, Brookfield Rail and CBH announced an agreement that will keep grain on the WA rail system for the remainder of this season's harvest.

The 12-month deal will begin on January 1 next year and includes a continuation of access to all Tier 1 and Tier 2 rail lines with CPI increase, with the agreement including Miling.

The line, which had been flagged for closure by Brookfield, will remain open but freight rates for the sites on the line will increase by 30 to 40 cents per tonne above the estimated freight rates published in October.

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The increase will affect growers who deliver to Miling, Bindi Bindi, Piawaning, Yerecoin, Calingiri and Bolgart.

Miling grower and Moora Shire president Ken Seymour said Miling line growers were becoming increasing cynical after the higher than average rate rise.

He said freight rates to deliver to sites along the Miling route were becoming too expensive and growers were being forced to cart their grain along crumbling Shire roads to Moora.

"Apart from the cost to the Shire to repair the roads, growers delivering to sites along the line now have to cart grain further, costing them extra valuable time and extra wear and tear on machinery," he said. "There are people delivering grain to Moora from Latham, which is 130km each way and means they can usually only make two trips in a day.

"The underutilisation of the Miling line has cost growers wishing to use the site an above-CPI cost increase and this has not been the case on any other line."

Meanwhile, Labor Agriculture Region MLC Darren West said CBH had been put in a difficult situation regarding the Miling line because of changes made to the 49-year rail lease between Brookfield and the State Government.

"Because future access to non-standard gauge lines remains uncertain, it makes it very difficult for CBH to plan," he said

"CBH will focus on the standard gaugee because they know it will always be a line that is available to them and they're becoming hesitant to invest on other lines."

Mr West said Miling was a good example of this.

"CBH had significantly invested into the Miling line and other sites and this investment is now on hold due to uncertainty over acceptable rail access arrangements," he said.

CBH was contacted for comment but declined.

Meanwhile, it has been a dangerous start to this year's grain harvest with a string of truck rollovers.

In three separate incidents, thousands of tonnes of grain spilled on to regional roads.

The first incident happened in Hyden late last week when a truck carrying 24 tonnes of wheat overturned on a bend, after moving out of the way of an empty grain truck coming the other way.

On the same day, a prime mover full of grain overturned in Geraldton.

On Monday, it was reported a road train carrying canola collided with a car near Grass Valley.

The accidents are fuelling concern that narrow and sometimes crumbling regional roads are making the cartage of grain a high-risk task and that it is a matter of time before fatalities occur.

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