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LEADERS of the Wheatbelt Railway Retention Alliance (WRRA) have called on the State government to consider options which might allow closed Tier Three grain lines to be returned to service.
The lobby group, formed in 2010 to unite local government, farmers and others in the fight to keep regional rail lines open, effectively went into recess while the extended arbitration between CBH Group and WA's freight rail network operator Arc Infrastructure was underway.
But with CBH and Arc reaching agreement on November 1 on running grain trains on currently-used lines until 2026, WRRA members have re-entered the political battle over the future of Tier Three grain lines that Arc withdrew from service in 2013-14.
WRRA founder and co-ordinator Jane Fuchsbichler, Belka, last week called on the government to "look at options to take back control of the closed rail lines, which are vital State-owned infrastructure and which Arc has clearly shown it does not wish to operate".
Former WRRA chairman and Quairading grain farmer Greg Richards endorsed Ms Fuchsbichler's call and said now the CBH-Arc agreement was out of the way, business cases including prospective freight rates should be prepared on reopening the York-Quairading and other Tier Three lines, so farmers and other potential users could assess for themselves whether they would be viable.
The Department of Transport, Main Roads Western Australia, Public Transport Authority (PTA) and Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development are collaborating on a Agricultural Region Freight Strategy which is expected to be considered by parliament and released early in the new year.
The strategy proposes six key objectives to improve efficiency and encourage regional economic growth through "seamless" integration of "optimised" infrastructure for grain, livestock, agricultural lime, fertiliser and hay supply chains.
But the strategy, which will cover the Mid West, Wheatbelt, Great Southern and Goldfields-Esperance regions and is expected to guide future State government spending on road and rail grain freight routes, does not take Tier Three lines into consideration.
This article first appeared on www.farmweekly.com.au
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