Drivers get short stack

Rueben HaleThe West Australian
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Wheatbelt truck drivers are fuming after being forced to cart grain in pocket road trains because of what they say is a road planning bungle.

Countryman understands that the grain truck drivers have been left with no option but to use much smaller trucks on the Kellerberrin to Bruce Rock and Muntagin to Narembeen roads because of short stacking distances on roads.

WAFarmers president Dale Park said the short distances would not allow a full size road train or even a semi trailer to approach a T-intersection without the trailer going over a railway line.

It is a legal requirement for vehicles to be at least 3.5m clear of the lines.

Countryman also understands the Tier 3 lines that were closed on June 30 are still technically operational because rail maintenance vehicles still use the tracks.

Mr Park said it beggared belief that the Strategic Grain Network Report had not factored in truck stacking distances.

"This is another example, in a growing list of examples, that has shown the SGNR report is highly unworkable," he said.

"Now we have to work with using smaller trucks and once again increase costs to our growers."

Mr Park also said the stacking distance oversight was just another example of the bungling and misinformation given to stakeholders when the SGNR was developed.

"It turns out we really were just a mob of mushrooms," he said.

"A lot of the information presented to us has turned out to be flawed or out-of-date."

The 2009 SGNR said it would cost an estimated $11.2 million to upgrade the Narembeen to Merredin road and the Shackleton to Kellerberrin road.

But recent figures released by the department show a 33 percent blowout in estimated costs, with around $14.5 million already spent on upgrades.

"The cost of upgrading and maintaining the roads was on the SGNR were clearly discounted and the cost of rail was inflated," Mr Park said.

"It seems whoever put the SGNR together clearly had an outcome in mind."

Meanwhile, CBH said it was still seeking to get clarity from the Department of Transport and other government departments on who is responsible for the successful implementation of the road movement and maintenance component of the SGNR road strategy.

A CBH spokeswoman said the group understood the concern of Shires in the Tier 3 area and acknowledged the "frustration of having extra truck movements on their roads". A spokeswoman for Transport Minister Dean Nalder said it was of note to the minister that WAFarmers had previously endorsed SGNR.

She also said the State Government has also committed extra money to bring the roads up to the grain task.

"$118 million has been allocated to targeted projects to secure the quality of the State's Grain Freight road network, which will help cater for the additional 15,000 loads," she said.

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