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The Carisbrook to Maldon road is a prime example of how Victorian roads have been degraded and deteriated by trucks hauling the state's freight rather than using rail transport. The Auditor General highlighted this fact in his report and identified that 80 tonne trucks transporting freight over roads designed to carry 40 tonne trucks.
An article in the 2017 September edition of Rail Digest, identifies that one trucking company alone had a 20% increase in transporting the grain harvest. The Weekly Times in 2012, 5 July edition states that 55% of the harvest was transported by rail and 45% by road transport. Now in 2017 the ratio has been reversed and road transport now accounts for 55% of transporting the harvest and rail has slipped to 45% the transport for the harvest.
2017 harvest has doubled previous grain harvests and that an estimated 2 million tonnes of Victorian grain was transported by rail and 200,000 tonnes of grain was converted to road transport. Consequently, there were 90 fewer trains and a staggering extra 4,000 truck movements to transport the harvest.
Emerald Grain is one example where the company used 60% road transport to move the harvest and gives a curious response that it would have preferred to have used 60% rail but due to rail issues they had to resort to road transport.
The following excuses followed, heat restrictions on the speed trains could travel, a weeklong strike at Pacific National and work stoppages by ARTC maintenance crews were the reason given to using road transport.
Nowhere in the article does it point the finger at gross mismanagement and the retrenchment of Pacific National drivers, which caused a shortage of train drivers, lack of track maintenance, and shortages of locomotives and rolling stock that has had a profound impact on the rail transport of the harvest. The fact that in Victoria now Pacific National is the sole company with a contract to transport the harvest after the demise of EL ZORRO, which has further impacted on the rail transport of the harvest and competition.
The article also fails to identify political incompetence, culpability, intransigence and negligence with the way the harvest and container freight is moved around Victoria.
Mr Ken Wakefield the managing director of Wakefield Transport, sights the lack of investment in rail infrastructure impacted on every grain grower as they rely heavily on rail to transport the harvest because it is cost effective.
Mr Wakefield identifies successive governments that have not invested in rail infrastructure have created a freight deficit.
Ross Johns, the Victorian Farmer's Federation grains group president, has significantly campaigned for increased spending on rail infrastructure as the lack of investment has severely impacted on grain growers and buyers because the grain cannot be delivered to the market. This issue has caused some buyers to move their operations to South Australia and Western Australia, because of the lack of reliability and cost effectiveness of moving the harvest by rail transport.
Mr John's sees that it is inevitable that the grain industry will have to look towards more B Doubles and A Triples to move the harvest to overcome the decline and short fall in available of rail transport to move harvests.
This will immeasurably impact on the crumbling road network of Victoria and puts into question the funding for the standardization of the Mildura line, if more grain is going to be transported by road transport.
After all the political rhetoric used by federal and increasingly the Victorian Government politicians, that the standardization of the Mildura line was to effectively reduce the number of trucks on the road.
On a lighter note, in NSW Southern Shorthaul Railroad (SSR) have converted former coal wagons into grain hoppers to move the increased grain harvest in NSW. It is a great pity that this level of innovation and problem solving is completely devoid and an anathema to the states politicians and in the management of Victoria's solitary intrastate freight operator Pacific National.
Victoria needs another carrier of the grain harvest and Southern Shorthaul Railway should be given a contract.
Letting V/line off its political leash and returning to freight transport would also provide and establish a more effective and competitive means of freight rail transport across Victoria, rather just be reliant on one freight rail operator like Pacific National, who has not been a good corporate citizen in Victoria.
Public Relations Manager
Rail Revival Alliance Victoria
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