Teething troubles for CBH's new train fleet

Claire TyrrellCountryman

The performance of CBH's new rail fleet has been brought into question after incidents in the Geraldton zone last week.

On Thursday, a Watco-operated CBH train was held up for more than a day after it derailed at the Mingenew siding.

A wagon loaded with 45 tonnes of wheat slipped off the track after a derailing device was left on the line.

It is not known who left the device, which is designed to prevent unattended rolling stock rolling onto main lines, on the track. Thirty-six rail sleepers and 25m of line were damaged in the incident and a crane had to be brought in from Geraldton the next day to remove the wagons.

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At the weekend, a locomotive was held in a Mingenew workshop as crews investigated "fuel system problems" with the new machine.

It was reported that the new train had difficulty moving up some hills in the region, delaying journeys to port.

CBH Watco relationship manager Matthew Mews said neither incident had a big impact on grain haulage and were part of the transition process to the new carrier.

"We are bringing that wagon down to have a comprehensive look at it," he said. "That won't impact on tonnes to port because when we deployed to Geraldton we had spare wagons there already."

Mr Mews said the new locomotives struggled up the hills around Mingenew because of a problem in the electrical system.

"Strawberry Hill, west of Mingenew, is the hardest hill in the whole grain network," he said.

"We are running our new trains at 19 tonnes axle loads - QR National only had 16 tonnes. We have jumped up the capacity but are still constrained by 16 tonne-axle loads.

"We're playing with the control systems to minimise wheel slip and the amount of sand that goes onto the track.

"It's a tuning process that will take 10 to 12 weeks."

Mr Mews said the particular locomotive that was held up at the weekend would be swapped over this week.

"The CBH005 locomotive had some fuel system problems and we've had great support from both the builders, Motive Power and Cummins," he said.

"As soon as 006 comes out of the shed we will swap that locomotive over and have a thorough look at 005 to make sure we are on top of these issues that have popped up."

CBH invested $175 million in new rolling stock and began moving Watco trains along WA lines in June this year.

Mr Mews said the new trains had "less faults than expected" and anticipated CBH would meet its rail freight this harvest.

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