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MORE grain was transported by road than rail for the first time since 2012, industry sources have told The Weekly Times.
According to one industry insider, who did not wish to be named, 55 per cent of Victoria’s grain was transported by rail in the past two grain harvests, with 45 per cent by road.
But this year the ratio has flipped, with just 45 per cent of the bumper grain harvest transported by rail.
Given this year’s harvest is about double last year’s, the shift represents significant extra tonnage hitting the state’s roads in order to get to port.
Based on the assumption two million tonnes of grain have moved so far this year, an extra 200,000 tonnes of grain has travelled by road. This equated to 90 fewer trains and 4000 extra trucks.
Victorian Farmers Federation grains president Ross Johns was not surprised by the industry analysis.
“I think rail is becoming rapidly obsolete at enabling industry to move our produce,” he said. “In time we’ll have more and more grain moving by road.”
In recent months Mildura freight operator Ken Wakefield has been frustrated by new operating restrictions and industrial action that has prevented trains from running.
“It’s so disappointing when we have the largest grain season on record that the most efficient mode to carry the task is left idle ... and it is our growers that pay,” Mr Wakefield said.
Concern about Victoria’s freight transport has come as the Rail, Tram and Bus Union continues industrial action, including work stoppages by maintenance crews employed by the Australian Rail Track Corporation over a pay deal.
“We are confident in the contingencies we have in place and our focus remains on continuing to deliver safe and reliable operations for our customers,” an ARTC spokesman said.
RTBU secretary Luba Grigorovitch said it would be irresponsible to operate trains without maintenance crews.
This article first appeared on www.weeklytimesnow.com.au
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