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A STANDARD cattle train leaving Clermont can cart almost 900 head of cattle.
A three deck road train on the other hand can hold 60 head while at most a four deck road train can hold up to 80 head.
Comparing the vast difference of capacity between a truck and a train, Central and Western Queensland farmers have every right to be frustrated that their rail service was taken off them last year.
New cattle crates were first introduced in 2016 when Aurizon purchased Chinese crates on behalf of the State Government.
A year later, in October 2017, they were withdrawn from service due to safety issues with problems found in the crates locking mechanisms.
The Government has been under fire over how long it has taken to rectify the problems, with cattle producers facing extra costs to transport livestock by road while rail services are suspended.
The State Government recently announced a trial for the attempted repairs to the Chinese-made cattle crates.
Member for Gregory Lachlan Millar said he was concerned at the time taken to get these crates back on the rails.
"Labor's brand new Chinese-made cattle crates were decommissioned because they didn't lock properly and gates and panels were falling off,” Mr Millar said.
"Let's be clear, these 350 cattle crates aren't old or falling apart due to wear and tear, they were faulty when Labor bought them.
"The LNP first raised this issue with Labor in October last year on behalf of graziers throughout Queensland, but Labor has sat on their hands for over seven months and done nothing.
"And to add insult to injury, the city-centric Labor Government sent the crates to Brisbane and Townsville for repairs, despite there being local engineering firms here in Central Queensland who could have fixed this mess in half the time.”
Mr Millar claims it is a "major kick in the guts to a region that is grappling with high unemployment and devastating drought”.
"Cattle producers from Central and Western Queensland are forced to pay an additional $20 per head to truck their cattle to port,” he said.
The closure of the rail service means there is an extra 30 or so trucks on the Capricorn Highway every week - and that is just coming from Clermont.
"The rail fail in the bush is also putting unnecessary additional pressure on our road network,” Mr Millar said.
Leading legal firm Creevey Russell Lawyers Principal Dan Creevey was in Winton last week to observe a trial of the modified crates on a rail service between Julia Creek and Rockhampton being conducted by the Department of Transport and rail freight operator Aurizon.
Mr Creevey said cattle producers were keen to have rail freight services return to normal for the seasonal peak in cattle movements.
"The Government has done itself no favours with the way it has been dealing with Queensland's agriculture sector who are already angered by moves to limit tree clearing,” he said.
"Queensland is the only state that subsidises and provides regional rail freight services for the beef sector.
"The full resumption of those services will be a relief for producers.”
This article first appeared on www.themorningbulletin.com.au
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