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Roads face grain glut test

Rueben HaleCountryman
Grant Tuckwell shows a recent “licorice strip” break-up on Brookton Highway.
Camera IconGrant Tuckwell shows a recent “licorice strip” break-up on Brookton Highway. Credit: Countryman

WA’s predicted bumper harvest could lead to trucking hell with tens of thousands of extra grain deliveries this year.

Widespread rain across the State has reinforced optimism for a record-breaking harvest of at least 17.6 million tonnes.

Since the closure of Tier 3 rail in the Wheatbelt in 2013, many farmers have been left with no option other than to truck their grain, sometimes hundreds of extra kilometres on crumbling Wheatbelt roads.

Many'''' people in these areas have already raised concern that recently repaired haulage roads are showing signs of wear and tear and are unlikely to be able to support the thousands of extra trucks pounding them over the coming harvest.

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CBH said it has already started moving about 1.5 million tonnes of left-over grain in its network from last year as it plans for the massive crop.

It also plans for the first time to transport 400,000 tonnes by road to port from Brookton.

“As rail costs have gone up and road prices have become cheaper it is now more cost effective to transport a proportion of grain directly to port by road,” CBH operations manager Dave Capper said.

Grain-on-rail advocates Grant Tuckwell from Kondinin and Arthur Commons from Quairading have reported road degradation on designated grain haulage roads.

“The Brookton Highway and Chester Pass Road are in terrible condition despite work done to them,” Mr Tuckwell said. “It is disturbingly common to find holes with pooling water and ‘licorice strips’ that are under a year old breaking off at the join.”

Mr Commons said deterioration was inevitable.

“The real test for the roads from Quairading to York and Cunderdin will be when it starts getting hot and the new bitumen starts to push out even more than it is currently,” Mr Commons said.

Agricultural Region MLC Darren West has blamed the State Government for the condition of the Wheatbelt haulage roads.

“They have shown a total lack of common sense by now relying on road transport to shift millions of tonnes of grain,” he said.

A Department of Transport spokeswoman said road and rail transport were both critical links in the supply chain for moving grain in WA.

“It is the State Government’s preference that rail is used where it suits the transport task and is commercially viable for the rail network owner and the rail access seeker,” she said.

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