CBH Tier 3 efforts pushed on down the track

Jenne Brammer and Cally DupeCountryman
One of the last trains to use the Tier 3 narrow gauge track between Narambeen and Merredin.
Camera IconOne of the last trains to use the Tier 3 narrow gauge track between Narambeen and Merredin. Credit: Mogens Johansen

CBH’s efforts to reopen Tier 3 rail lines will remain on the backburner because it needs to focus on more immediate needs with the harvest.

A long-awaited arbitrated outcome between CBH and Arc Infrastructure was announced last week over the use of the grain freight rail network until 2026. But it was deemed unviable to open the mothballed Tier 3 network under the terms of that agreement.

However, CBH chief executive Jimmy Wilson said last week that CBH would consider reopening Tier 3 outside that agreement if it was granted access to the lines by Arc Infrastructure, and a business case stacked up.

A later statement from CBH said there were more immediate priorities.

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“Given the arbitrated outcome has only been decided in the past two weeks, our focus is now on engaging Arc with a view to discussing our immediate rail needs for the current harvest and efficiency gains that could be achieved in the short term,” a spokesman said.

“Once current requirements are being progressed, other opportunities, such as Tier 3 rail lines, can be discussed.”

WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said the State Government was willing to consider what assistance it might have been able to provide to support the reopening of the Tier 3 lines, closed under the Liberal-National government, but no formal request had been received.

CBH held three grower meetings last week to discuss the outcome of the deal with Arc Infrastructure. Meetings in Bruce Rock and Kulin were tense with growers questioning CBH over why it did not consider reopening Tier 3 as part of the agreement with Arc.

Bruce Rock farmer Stephen Strange said he and others wanted to find out how serious CBH was about taking on the Tier 3 lines, outside the arrangement.

“We didn’t come away from the meeting thinking there was a lot of commitment there,” he said.

Hyden farmer Colin Nicholl said local farmers agreed the line should be leased to CBH and if Arc could not agree to do this at a fair price, it should be handed back to the government.

Arc — previously Brookfield Rail — holds a 49-year lease on WA’s entire rail network after the then State government controversially leased the lines to the company in 2000.

Tier 3 involves 509km of line in the Wheatbelt, which closed in 2014, affecting areas including Kulin, Corrigin, Narembeen and Kondinin.

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