Harvest target for rail deal extension

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian
Harvest target for rail deal extension
Camera IconHarvest target for rail deal extension

CBH will try to extend its interim deal to run trains on the State’s grain freight network before the start of harvest as the bitter battle with Brookfield Rail enters a new phase.

The grower-controlled co-operative and BR were further apart than ever on a long-term access agreement when 90 days of mandatory negotiations under WA’s Rail Access Code ended yesterday.

The next step under the code is for CBH to ask the Economic Regulation Authority to appoint an arbitrator or panel of arbitrators to set an access price.

CBH has already entered uncharted waters under the code in a dispute that is being monitored by other users of the rail network controlled by BR under an exclusive lease from the State Government.

Operations manager David Capper said last night that CBH was considering its options. In a letter to growers last week, he flagged going to arbitration and warned the process could take more than a year.

BR chief executive Paul Larsen said he was disappointed that CBH had indicated they would turn to an arbitrator.

“Arbitration will likely be a costly and time-consuming process for both parties,” he said.

“In order to deliver on CBH’s requirements, which include long-term access to the Miling line and some Tier 3 lines, access fees must increase to underpin the required maintenance and capital investment.”

Growers were furious last month when CBH was forced to remove its locomotives and wagons from all lines before agreeing to a big price rise under an interim access deal lasting until December 31.

CBH now faces the prospect of that deal expiring in the middle of a big harvest. Mr Capper said extending the deal before the start of harvest was a priority.

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