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FARMERS and grain handlers have been called in to advise the Victorian Government about heat restrictions that stopped trains delivering produce to port last summer.
Former Victorian Farmers Federation president Peter Tuohey will chair the Rail Freight Advisory Council, set up to advise Victoria’s Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan.
The council will meet for the first time tomorrow and is expected to urgently prepare advice to the Government regarding V/Line’s strict heat restrictions, which stop trains travelling on days when temperatures reach 33C.
The restrictions were introduced as a safety precaution last summer and shocked the freight and farming sectors, which were in the midst of exporting the largest grain harvest in the state’s history.
By the beginning of March industry sources had told The Weekly Times that two grain handlers alone had added an extra 850 B-double trucks to the roads because of the rail heat restrictions.
In April, V/Line chief executive James Pinder commissioned an independent review of the heat restrictions, but the terms of reference, and the report, have not been made public and the heat restrictions remain in place.
Ms Allan said the council’s recommendations would improve V/Line’s rail freight procedures.
“Our farmers and primary industries across Victoria rely on the rail freight network. It's vital we make it as efficient and safe as possible,” Ms Allan said,
The council includes representatives from V/Line, VicTrack, Port of Portland, GrainCorp, Emerald Grain, Cargill, Wakefield Transport, Pacific National, Victorian Farmers Federation and the Rail Freight Alliance.
The council is also expected to provide advice to the Government on the roll-out of the $440 million state and federal funded Murray Basin Rail Project to standardise freight rail lines. The appointment of the council comes after unions attacked the Victorian Government over the roll-out of the rail project, which they claimed was “dogged by safety failures and appalling working conditions from the outset”.
Last week a 58-year-old Rochester man working on the project was killed, when he was crushed between a steamroller and a trailer, at Mildura. WorkSafe is investigating.
This article first appeared on www.weeklytimesnow.com.au
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