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FARMERS and freight operators have challenged V/Line claims that its grain haulage total this summer was a record.
V/Line chief executive James Pinder claimed speed restrictions on the rail network had actually ensured more grain was delivered to port than in recent years.
“This year has seen record amounts of grain transported on our freight rail network, with 69 per cent more trains running so far this financial year, compared to the last, which is an excellent result for our primary producers,” Mr Pinder said.
“We’ve estimated 860,000 tonnes of grain has been moved by rail this season, thanks in part to safety measures that have reduced the risk of derailments, which can disrupt rail operations for days or weeks.”
V/Line could not say what record Mr Pinder was referring to.
.Victorian Farmers Federation president David Jochinke said V/Line was “fooling itself” if it thought the rail freight this year was a good result given the current harvest was expected to be the biggest in the state’s history.
“It should be at least 300 per cent more grain,” he said.
Victorian farmers produced a 10.1 million tonne grain crop last harvest, compared with a 4.1 million tonne crop in 2015-16.
Victoria’s rail freight has been hampered by rules that stop trains travelling on some parts of the network when temperatures hit 33C. V/Line introduced the restrictions as a safety precaution in December.
The Rail Freight Alliance has called for a peer review of the operating requirements.
“This is unprecedented in Australia, we’ve never had stoppages (because of heat) before,” Alliance spokesman Reid Mather said.
“NSW has a similar network that operates to 40C.”
Mr Mather said grain exporters faced penalties for missing shipping deadlines caused by the new requirements, while some increased the amount sent by road.
Industry sources 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 this financial year, 446 freight trains have transported grain in Victoria, compared with 264 that ran in 2015-16.
This article first appeared on www.weeklytimesnow.com.au
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