Roads continue to crumble under grain
While CBH and Brookfield continue to fight it out over grain freight rail access, rural communities are still left struggling to cope with crumbling country roads.
Last week CBH signed a one-year extension to its current interim access agreement with Brookfield Rail, allowing the use of the Tier 1 and Tier 2 rail lines as well as the Miling lines.
Since the closure of 509km of track in the Tier 3 region, the farming community has raised concerns about the increase of an estimated 30,000 extra truck movements on crumbling Wheatbelt roads, used to move the hundreds of thousands of tonnes of grain by road from affected areas.
Rural communities throughout the Central Wheatbelt have continued to report widespread road degradation on designated grain haulage roads, with reports of potholes and “licorice strips” that are under a year old breaking off at the join commonplace.
Quairading Shire chief executive Graeme Fardon said the town, in the Tier 3 region, did not have the capacity to maintain the smashed-up roads.
“I believe that it is very early days to be able to ascertain the financial impact of additional road maintenance on local roads resulting from the grain hauling task on road rather than rail; however, anecdotally both the State and local roads are continuing to fail as they were never designed nor constructed for such large truck configurations,” he said.
“Council has had to maintain its funding level directed to road maintenance, but it is strictly limited ... as there is no additional State funding to councils for the ongoing maintenance of the designated grain freight routes.”
Mr Fardon said the councils receive a grant each year from Main Roads WA to be directed towards road maintenance, but the amount has not kept pace with the grain task for the area.
“The Shire of Quairading has maintained its funding level of an average in excess of $440,000 per year (five-year average) over the past two years,” he said.
“It is highlighted that for the Shire of Quairading an increase in road maintenance spending of just $20,000 represents a one per cent increase in the council rates needing to be levied on the local ratepayers.”
Meanwhile, CBH operations manager Dave Capper said the agreement would give growers certainty.
“It allows us to continue our operation on Brookfield Rail lines, as we continue to seek a long-term access agreement under the Railways Access Code,” he said. “The arbitration process is ongoing with a hearing set to take place in 2017.”
In mid-2013, CBH commenced commercial negotiations for long-term access to the state's rail network and on 10 December 2013 made an application for access under the Railways Access Code 2000.
On 17 January 2014 CBH commenced proceedings in the Supreme Court of Western Australia (subsequently settled without admissions by either party).
On 17 Feb 2016, CBH formally notified the Economic Regulation Authority (ERA) that a dispute existed and asked for an arbitrator to be appointed
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