If the wagons are ECP only(and this has been PN's preference in recent times), there will be no choice. As you say, dragging a dead unit around for half the time wouldn't be cost effective. Is there any scope for lengthening the consists?
ECP cabling allows wired distributed power. Driver walks to the other end, sets up and goes. Like an EMU, so the theory goes.
I see. Distributed power wouldn't be required in this case so ECP would be unnecessary. One PN/8300 at a time would be plenty for a sugar consist. If you had a loco at each end one loco would be hauled dead or off-line and be fired up for the journey in the direction it was facing. Having said that, PN aren't going to do this in the Burdekin - they'll be short of motive power as it is.
Staff provided by Wilmar (I think) are already provided to assist in shunting and turning locomotives in the Burdekin.Staff provided by Wilmar (I think) are already provided to assist in shunting and turning locomotives in the Burdekin.
The last few seasons these staff were provided by Skilled and paid for by Aurizon. Not sure how PN will do it but as they are running these services with two crew I imagine they'll do the shunting themselves.
The consist sizes are set by the each mill's daily milling capacity and the size of each mill's loading bin, so consists probably couldn't be lengthened without very major changes at each mill. Aurizon (and I assume PN will do the same) ran trains twice daily to Kalamia, Pioneer, Inkerman and Proserpine, and three times a day to Invicta to suit the production rates of each mill. If fewer trains ran and loadout bins reached capacity before the train arrived, then the mill faces the many issues of having to shut down and then restart. In a way, the rail operation works like "a just in time" delivery system.
Thanks Sulla1. If PN under-bid the incumbent, you'd expect that they would find some efficiencies in the process somewhere. Increasing train size would seem the simplest way. From your post, it's obviously not that simple.
As for the push-pull option, I mentioned previously, they wouldn't be hauling a dead unit half the time, they'd be hauling a dead unit, all the time. (Dumkopf!)