Truck rally to highlight Tier 3 closure

Rueben HaleCountryman
Quairading farmer Greg Richards.
Camera IconQuairading farmer Greg Richards. Credit: Danella Bevis/Countryman

Wheatbelt farmers are planning a truck rally which will involve 50 grain trucks travelling to Perth to protest State Government inaction since the closure of the Tier 3 rail line last October.

Spokesman and Quairading farmer Greg Richards said the 50 trucks would be the equivalent of one trainload of grain.

"We don't really want to cause congestion, like if we blocked an ambulance or something like that," he said.

"But the other side of it is what if someone was to lose their life while carting grain by truck to port."

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Mr Richards said the idea of the rally would be to raise awareness of the issue with the people of Perth because nothing was being done to address the issue of the deteriorating state of country roads.

"Mr Barnett is not going to listen to us alone," he said.

"If we could let local people know that the grain would be better off on rail, rather than clogging up road systems, that would worthwhile."

Eastern Wheatbelt towns have experienced high volumes of trucks carting grain by road since the Tier 3 rail line closure last year.

Quairading is one town where many roads still need repair and maintenance work to make them safe.

Shire of Quairading chief executive Graeme Fardon said while there had been some work done over the past two years, there was much-needed road construction which had no funding allocated.

"Overtaking lanes between Quairading and York have not happened," he said.

Mr Fardon said CBH and the State Government had agreed the Quairading to Cunderdin road would be the preferred route for transporting grain, but most grain trucks continued to use the Quairading to York route, because the Cunderdin passage was narrow and crumbling.

"There is nothing stopping grain trucks from using the Quairading to York road," he said.

Mr Richards said truck drivers would continue to use the Quairading to York road, damaging it further, until work was completed on the Quairading to Cunderdin road.

"It's just not to spec," he said.

"There are many culverts underneath the road not capable of taking 50 tonnes coming over the top of them these days."

Mr Richards said more than 200,000 tonnes of grain would be transported on the Quairading to York road.

"Each truck has a capacity of around 45 to 50 tonnes each, so that is a lot of trucks," he said.

"They've widened the road by about 8km and added a bit of a rumble strip either side to keep us happy."

A CBH spokeswoman said the company used the Strategic Grain Network Report designated routes, which included the Quairading to Cunderdin road.

"We will continue to take instruction from local governments as to the suitability of local roads for grain trucks," the spokeswoman said.

Nationals Member for the Agricultural Region Paul Brown said while he acknowledged the road was not in a good condition, people needed to take responsibility for their own safety.

"People need to drive to the conditions of the roads," he said.

"The Quairading to York road is less than ideal.

"But in saying that, the vast majority of trucks should be travelling on the Quairading to Cunderdin road.

"And there will always be the domestic trucks, which are beyond our control."

Mr Brown said CBH and Brookfield needed to come to the government with a viable business case for rail.

"We went to the election with a $300 million agricultural policy," he said.

"Sitting inside that policy is $2 million for auditing and $75 million to upgrade existing infrastructure.

"Quite clearly we are not going to spend money on rail lines that we are not sure will be used."

Mr Richards said the rally was planned for the beginning of March.

The trucks would meet at the Lakes Roadhouse Restaurant at the corner of Great Eastern Highway and York Road, and drive bumper to bumper to the CBH grain terminal in Kwinana, he said.

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