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A Rainbow farmer says the area is feeling the negative effects of not having rail as an option to transport grain.
It comes as the government says it is working with V-Line to get trains running on the Rainbow to Dimboola rail line. V-Line notified freight operators in July freight trains would be unable to use the line due to safety concerns. It has remained closed during harvest.
Growers in several Wimmera towns on the Rainbow Line have inundated GrainCorp with record amounts of produce during the 2020 harvest.
A spokeswoman said the organisation expected its Jeparit site to hit a record receival level in coming weeks, while Rainbow has received 100,000 tonnes more product than last year.
She said GrainCorp was in discussions with the state government about the Rainbow line reopening.
The Mail-Times contacted the office of Transport Minister Jacinta Allan about whether the government would consider upgrading the Rainbow and Hopetoun railway lines to handle heavier wagon loads, given the increased yield.
In response, a spokeswoman said the stateand federal governments were assessing options for maintenance on Murray Basin lines.
"We'll continue to work with V/Line to determine the best way to restore track conditions between Rainbow and Dimboola and get freight trains running on the line," she said.
A V-Line spokeswoman said: "V/Line will not compromise on safety and would like to thank freight operators for their patience and understanding, while we work with the department on the next steps."
The spokeswoman did not specify a time by when the organisation hoped to have the line reopened.
Prior to the closure of the line, there had been a permanent speed restriction of 30 kilometres an hour since November 2018.
Rainbow farmer Malcolm Schilling said not having rail as an option ultimately had an impact on farmers' profits.
"I did notice during harvest there were better prices at sites not far from here and a lot bigger difference than normal," he said.
"When they put out the harvest daily prices, ours were behind Beulah and Nhill, there was a difference of $10 per tonne, and I asked the question (of GrainCorp) and we got told apparently that's because there's no rail freight until probably April."
"Our rail freight from Rainbow to Portland is $33 a tonne, and if you put it on the road, you're probably going to be looking at near $40 a tonne.
"If we deliver into GrainCorp's system, that's the set freight rate of $33, but if they have to get stuff to port while the train line is shut, someone is going to have to pick up the difference between the rail and truck freight, and if you haven't sold grain I suppose the buyer will work that out and you'll get less for your grain than if it was going by rail freight."
Mr Schilling started harvest in mid-November and finished a month later. He said he was worried more trucks using Dimboola-Rainbow road to transport grain in the absence of trains would lead to the road becoming worse between Rainbow and Jeparit.
"It doesn't need any more traffic than it's getting," he said. "At the moment it's not wide enough if two trucks meet: They have to go off the road shoulder by up to 100 milimetres."
The Mail-Times also asked Ms Allan if the state government had plans to upgrade the road network to cope with the increased number of heavy haulage trucks carting grain in place of trains. It did not receive a direct response.
Freight terminal operators continue to push for upgrade funding
Wimmera Container Line General Manager Tim Guidera said rail activity at Dooen's Wimmera Intermodal Freight Terminal had increased "dramatically" in recent weeks due to the region's strong harvest.
WCL operates the freight terminal and is owned by SCT Logistics. It transports empty freight containers from Melbourne to Dooen, then drives them to Wimmera packing sites where they are either 'live loaded' or the empty containers are dropped off and full containers are collected. The full containers are then taken to the Port of Melbourne by train where they are loaded onto ships.
"We expect between 400 and 600 containers will travel to Melbourne by our rail service and not be on road each week for the next five months," Mr Guidera said
in a statement.
"The trains will range from 550 to 1,100 metres long. This stretches the site layout to its limits as it requires moving the train to load and unload every 200 metre section."
Mr Guidera said WCL would continue to push for grant funding to upgrade the terminal alongside Horsham Rural City Council in 2020, and hoped "to see more traction".
He said the site would need more rail tracks and an expanded loading pad to meet the anticipated increase in demand within the next three years.
This article first appeared on www.mailtimes.com.au
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