Transport price rise ahead, says CBH

REBECCA TRIGGERThe West Australian
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Farmers are facing price hikes to transport grain to port this season following rail closures on sections of the State's ageing freight network.

Farmers who use Tier 3 rail lines will face an average five per cent increased transport cost, according to a statement from bulk handler CBH this afternoon.

This is compared with an average 2 per cent price rise across the network.

Brookfield Rail, contractors who operate the south-west grain freight network, announced the closure of two grain freight lines because of safety concerns earlier this month.

The closure of the York to Quairading and Merredin to Trayning lines has caused outrage from farming and community groups who fear thousands of extra truck movements - replacing train freight services - will damage already crumbling country roads and put drivers at risk.

Farmers on the Miling Tier 2 line, which services a district expected to produce more than 370,000t this season, are also facing transport cost increases of an average five per cent per ton after it was "downgraded" earlier this month.

CBH said in a statement on its website: "The estimated freight rates have considered the operational restrictions and/or closures on the Tier 2 and Tier 3 rail sections, fuel price increases and certain road contract tenders."

"It is also important to note that there is a fair amount of uncertainty around ongoing track access which has made estimating freight rates difficult this year and they are therefore subject to change pending outcomes of the negotiations with Brookfield Rail."

CBH has been locked in talks with Brookfield over extending the use of the remaining Tier 3 lines next year.

Brookfield has previously maintained under the terms of its contract the Government was responsible for major expenditure on grain freight lines but could choose whether to do the work.

The company has estimated an investment of more than $90 million to put new sleepers on the ageing lines was needed for rail to remain a cheaper option.

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