Roads struggle amid haul record

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian

Grain from WA's bumper harvest is being moved on rail in record volumes as debate rages over the future of the ageing Wheatbelt freight lines.

CBH and rolling stock operator Watco moved 662,661 tonnes of grain on lines operated by Brookfield Rail in November, a 12 per cent increase on the previous record for the month.

The Kwinana grain terminal also broke its record for the month, unloading 585,643 tonnes delivered by rail compared to the next best of 425,463 in November 2004.

The record run comes with CBH and Brookfield locked in a bitter dispute over track access fees and operating standards, and with sections of the lines, known as Tier 3, set to close in a little over six months.

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Shire of Quairading chief executive Graeme Fardon said it was stepping up a campaign to have the Quairading-York section reopened as grain poured into the local receival bin.

Brookfield closed the 116-year-old section in the wake of a major derailment in September.

Mr Fardon said CBH had applied for urgent approval for a new 30,000t bulkhead at Quairading as harvest forecasts continued to climb.

He said the shire now expected more than 9000 extra truck movements to clear the receival facilities on the closed line and roads were already struggling to cope.

Plans to cart the grain by truck from Quairading to Cunderdin were in doubt with a major culvert on the road starting to buckle.

The culvert is being monitored by Main Roads and Mr Fardon said the shire might be forced to impose a 6t load limit to keep it open.

It is likely road trains carrying 50t loads will cart even more of the grain into York, where shire president Tony Boyle has warned vibrations from the trucks could damage historic buildings.

The warnings come with Transport Minister Troy Buswell under growing pressure to review the Government's policy on the grain rail freight network, which is based on a 2009 review signed off on by industry.

The Wildflower Society of WA joined the chorus calling for a review of the Strategic Grain Network Committee report, which said the Tier 3 lines would close.

WSWA president Eddy Wajon said yesterday the report did not take into account the environmental and social impacts of closing the Tier 3 lines.

"The Government should require Brookfield to maintain and upgrade the existing Tier 3 lines in a fit-for-purpose state, and not close any of them," Mr Wajon said.

The Office of Rail Safety expects a report from Brookfield and Watco on the Quairading derailment in the next few weeks.

CBH has already received almost 12.5mt of grain as the harvest - which some predict will reach 15.2mt - continues at a record rate.

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