Shire’s plans for bypass in doubt

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Cally DupeThe West Australian
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Shire of Narembeen acting chief executive officer Bonnie Cole and works manager Arthur Cousins at the site.
Camera IconShire of Narembeen acting chief executive officer Bonnie Cole and works manager Arthur Cousins at the site. Credit: Picture: Sheree Thomas

Plans for a bypass to stop grain trucks thundering through Narembeen have been knocked back by Brookfield Rail and CBH.

Both issued a joint statement to the Shire of Narembeen last month stating they could not approve the project, because negotiations about the future of closed Tier 3 rail lines, including Narembeen, were still underway.

The Shire has been gunning for a bypass to reduce the number of grain trucks travelling through Narembeen. It proposed a land-swap deal with Brookfield to build the road in the company’s Merredin-Kondinin rail access corridor.

But a CBH spokeswoman said it had been advised by Brookfield the bypass could jeopardise the reopening of the closed Narembeen line.

“Brookfield Rail ... has advised CBH the proposed realignment of Latham Road (to create the bypass) would detrimentally impact the ability to access and utilise the rail line for grain to be out-loaded from the CBH site, should an agreement over access be reached,” she said.

“Given this advice, CBH is unable to support the proposal at this stage while arbitration continues.

“CBH believes it would be inappropriate to invest growers’ money into a process seeking rail access while, on the other hand, supporting the Shire of Narembeen’s proposal, which we understand would jeopardise this access.”

The closure of more than 500km of Tier 3 grain lines in 2014 has been widely blamed for an increase in the number of grain trucks on the road.

The lines, used to cart grain from receival sites to port, are owned by the State Government and leased exclusively by Brookfield Rail until 2049.

But the privatisation arrangement has seen Brookfield and CBH locked in negotiations since 2013, with CBH pushing to secure a long-term access agreement.

Narembeen Shire chief executive Chris Jackson said he was surprised to receive the letter blocking access to the Merredin-Kondinin line.

If it had access, the Shire would upgrade road infrastructure on both Latham and Soldiers roads, linking with the Shire’s new Fricker Road.

“The Shire of Narembeen, farmers and the broader community believe this is a good project and should be supported,” he said.

“The fact that the letter received is on the letterhead of both Brookfield Rail and CBH and copied to the Premier’s office when they are in a so-called arbitration process in the courts just beggars belief.”

A Brookfield Rail spokeswoman said the rail network provider had compromised to allow grain trucks to be stacked on the non-operational line.

“The proposed changes to Latham Road are within rail corridor land and will detrimentally impact the ability to upgrade, reopen and maintain the Narembeen rail line for the movement of grain or other commodities,” she said.

“Brookfield Rail has worked extensively over the past six months in an attempt to support the Shire of Narembeen in finding alternative solutions to resolve local road condition issues that do not require acquiring rail corridor land.

“Brookfield Rail has issued a special notice to allow the stacking of grain trucks over the non-operational rail line, which will allow the movement of 36.5m trains along Soldiers Road.”

Narembeen Shire president Rhonda Cole said the Shire had spent $1.8 million of State Government grain freight funding to build Fricker Road based, in part, on the closure of the Narembeen Tier 3 line.

Ms Cole said the proposal would have allowed network 7 (36.5m) road trains to outload from the Narembeen CBH site to Merredin and the road would form part of a bypass to divert heavy vehicles away from the town.

“Because of this decision road trains 36.5m in length will continue to travel down Currall Street, the main street of Narembeen ... past CBH bins past residential properties and all our sporting facilities, putting people’s lives at risk and affecting the amenity of our town,” she said.

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