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RAIL giant Aurizon is considering selling locomotives, wagons and infrastructure used to transport sugar after it decided it will no longer deliver sugar from Wilmar's mill at Proserpine to Mackay and from its Burdekin mills to Townsville.
The move could put the jobs of Mackay and Townsville rail workers, who maintain and operate the equipment, in doubt after the current contract with Wilmar expires at the end of December.
Aurizon said it would consult those workers if it decided the changes would have a "significant effect" on them.
"Aurizon is considering the best operational approach in response to the decision and how those arrangements may affect employees in Townsville and Mackay," a statement released by Aurizon reads.
"If Aurizon decides to make changes that would have a significant effect on employees, those affected employees would be consulted with before making those changes.
"Aurizon may seek to redeploy or sell locomotives, wagons and associated infrastructure, which are used for the transport of sugar."
Aurizon and Wilmar had been in talks over the haulage of sugar from Proserpine to Mackay and the Burdekin to Townsville as the current contract, which was signed in January 2016, lapses in December.
The discussions "resulted in Aurizon not securing the business", but the company did not state which party backed out of the discussions.
"Haulage services for the current sugar season finished in early January and will not re-commence until the new season starts in June," a statement issues by Aurizon read.
"Aurizon will fulfil its requirements to provide rail services for Wilmar from the start of the new season through to December 2017."
AURIZON will stop carrying sugar and molasses from Prosperpine Mill to Mackay Port at the end of December, forcing more trucks onto the Bruce Hwy.
The rail company sent out an employee update on Wednesday stating the decision to stop the run as well as Burdekin to Townsville, followed an operational requirements and commercial returns review, as well as discussions between Aurizon and Wilmar Sugar.
Rail Tram and Bus Union State organiser Bruce Mackie said it was a "kick in the guts" for the local sugar industry and would make the Bruce Hwy more dangerous.
"It will put the Bruce Hwy in a much worst condition with more trucks on the road," he said.
"It will increase the risks of more fatalities and it will have to be fixed at the tax payers expense," he said.
The notice didn't outline any changes at the Mackay and Townsville depots or for employees who service Wilmar Sugar but Mr Mackie said it would undoubtedly result in job losses.
"There's the gangs in Mackay and gangs in Proserpine that maintain the track," he said.
"Then there is the maintenance crew at the depot in Mackay with less train movements, will have less trains to maintain."
The decision by Aurizon comes a year after it signed a two year deal with Wilmar Sugar to haul about 245,000 tonnes of bulk sugar from Proserpine Mill to Queensland Sugar Limited at Mackay Harbour.
At the time Aurizon executive vice president commercial and marketing Mauro Neves said the contract met the company's needs to grow the business.
"Sugar plays an important part in Aurizon's diverse portfolio of bulk freight businesses in Queensland which range from minerals and fertiliser to agricultural commodities and livestock.
"Our commitment is to continue providing safe, quality, reliable and efficient services which help Wilmar deliver its product to market."
This article first appeared on www.dailymercury.com.au
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