Grains Express gets cold shoulder

Haidee VandenbergheCountryman
The West logo

CBH’s Grain Express has come under fire from a former ally, after the Australian Rail Group (ARG) spoke out against the system at last week’s closed doors Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) hearing.

It was a complete backflip from ARG’s previous position, which saw the subsidiary of QR National publically support the grains logistical system over several years.

Until last month, ARG enjoyed a decade-long contract to move CBH’s grain, but lost a recent tender process to US rail group Watco Companies.

Four weeks on from that announcement, ARG has revoked support for Grain Express, leaving industry insiders wondering whether the rail group has a case of ‘sour grapes’.

CBH chief executive Dr Andy Crane declined to comment on whether ARG harboured resentment, simply saying he would “let others be the judge”.

WAFarmers grain section president Kim Simpson said ARG’s move came as a surprise, but made sense in light of the recent tender announcement, particularly considering the amount of rolling stock the company had in WA.

“I suppose the logical business step for ARG is to oppose and then offer alternative options on the same lines, ” he said.

Mr Simpson added he was “mystified” by the ACCC’s decision to again review Grain Express.

“I believe farmers will lose if we lose this system, ” he said.

Dr Crane said nothing had changed since 2008, when the ACCC had agreed Grain Express benefited growers. “I understand the natural belief is that competition is good … but there are exceptions to the rule, ” he said.

Dr Crane also warned that if the ACCC revoked Grain Express’ monopoly on up-country transport, 90 per cent of the freight would move to road and impact communities.

The ACCC has not yet specified when its final decision will be handed down.

ARG declined to comment.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails