Panama Disease - good for rail?

 
  Sulla1 Chief Commissioner

The North Queensland banana industry - producing 95% of Australia's bananas - is facing a devastating crisis with the outbreak of Panama disease near Tully. With the risk of all North Queensland banana production being shutdown by the disease, an immediate effect will be the likely banning of long haul trucks entering plantations, with local trucks being used to deliver to hubs at Mareeba, Innisfail and Tully. This should mean long haul trucking companies will no longer have an advantage over PN and Aurizon with direct farm to metropolitan market deliveries - rail may also have an additional advantage of being less likely to spread the Panama spores in infected soil than rubber tyred trucks. There certainly appears to be an opportunity for rail to gain a larger market share of the 400,000-tonne banana business now - a watch this space.

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  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
The North Queensland banana industry - producing 95% of Australia's bananas - is facing a devastating crisis with the outbreak of Panama disease near Tully. With the risk of all North Queensland banana production being shutdown by the disease, an immediate effect will be the likely banning of long haul trucks entering plantations, with local trucks being used to deliver to hubs at Mareeba, Innisfail and Tully.

This should mean long haul trucking companies will no longer have an advantage over PN and Aurizon with direct farm to metropolitan market deliveries - rail may also have an additional advantage of being less likely to spread the Panama spores in infected soil than rubber tyred trucks. There certainly appears to be an opportunity for rail to gain a larger market share of the 400,000-tonne banana business now - a watch this space.
Sulla1

This should be something QR can handle quite easily.  I am aware of the Peanut traffic from Tolga which has now ceased.  Have bananas ever been on rail previously?

Do we know where the disease came from?
  mb67 Junior Train Controller

This should be something QR can handle quite easily.  I am aware of the Peanut traffic from Tolga which has now ceased.  Have bananas ever been on rail previously?

Do we know where the disease came from?
bevans
Panama Disease originated from the Northern Territory if I'm not mistaken.

I'm sure bananas could be hauled by rail, but temperature control would be the biggest issue so they'd need to be in their own container at a set temperature. When I worked at Woolies I saw first hand what cold and hot temperatures do to bananas, and it's not good for eating.
  Sulla1 Chief Commissioner

As far as I know Aurizon and PN are still in the banana business using maxi-cube reefer containers. Prior to Cyclone Larry in 2006, QR held a big proportion of the market share but the smaller volumes after the cyclone suited the more flexible trucking industry at the time and companies like Blenners gained much of the market as the industry recovered. Previously a major railing point for bananas, Tully sees no freight business at all now and Innisfail isn't that much better. With Aurizon and PN now both actively seeking more intermodal business in North Queensland this may well be the opportunity they need.
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Let's hope so.  Being in a container also makes the transition to SG much easier in Brisbane.  Can these reefer containers be loaded at Mareeba?  When last there I do not remember seeing a crane and hardstand.
  Sulla1 Chief Commissioner

There's no intermodal facilities - or freight handling facilities - at Mareeba these days. Standard containers used to run to Mareeba and Atherton, but the Maxi-Cubes would probably be too tall for the tunnels on the Kuranda Range. If rail operators can make themselves the solution, the proposed hub at Mareeba could end up down the range at Cairns instead.
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
There's no intermodal facilities - or freight handling facilities - at Mareeba these days. Standard containers used to run to Mareeba and Atherton, but the Maxi-Cubes would probably be too tall for the tunnels on the Kuranda Range. If rail operators can make themselves the solution, the proposed hub at Mareeba could end up down the range at Cairns instead.
Sulla1

There is a lot of produce to come down the range.  Would be better to deliver to Mareeba.
  Graham4405 The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: In exile
This should be something QR can handle quite easily.
bevans
QR have only a few locos and no container flats, not sure how they could handle the traffic.
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
QR have only a few locos and no container flats, not sure how they could handle the traffic.
Graham4405

Aurizon is what I meant to write. Smile
  danieln Beginner

Location: Sydney, Australia
You might think Aurizon could move 400,000 tonnes a year of bananas as they have done this in the past. Correct me if wrong but I believe they were once shipped in louvre vans from Tully.  I never remember them from Mareeba.

I do remember the Tolga Peanut traffic which was bagged and placed in louvre vans.
  Sulla1 Chief Commissioner

There's been a big expansion in banana (and horticultural) production north of Mareeba, particularly around Lakelands south of Cooktown, in the decade since Cyclone Larry as growers try to spread cyclone risk over a greater area and increase northern volumes. Most of that expansion has happened since regular rail freight operations to Mareeba ended...but I suspect some of the fruit being produced north of Mareeba is going to rail at Cairns, but what percentage I couldn't say.

In the eighties a lot of northern fruit was still moved in louvred vans and louvred containers, but since the late nineties most banana transport (road and rail) has moved to temperature controlled containers or trailers. The Tolga peanuts were the last regular freight on the Atherton and Kingoroy branches, going to road at the end of 2005. By that time the peanuts were being moved in QGA grain hoppers from Tolgo to Kingaroy for packaging and distribution.
  Hitachi Assistant Commissioner

There's been a big expansion in banana (and horticultural) production north of Mareeba, particularly around Lakelands south of Cooktown, in the decade since Cyclone Larry as growers try to spread cyclone risk over a greater area and increase northern volumes. Most of that expansion has happened since regular rail freight operations to Mareeba ended...but I suspect some of the fruit being produced north of Mareeba is going to rail at Cairns, but what percentage I couldn't say.
Sulla1

Can Mareeba be opened as a receival site for traffic?  there is a lot of produce up that way now and it makes sense for this to happen.
  Sulla1 Chief Commissioner

That would depend on the cost effectiveness of tunnel and axle load upgrades to Mareeba versus local trucking to existing intermodal sites at Cairns and Innisfail. If the market can sustain that cost it might happen, it's about the best chance Mareeba will ever have of seeing rail freight again...but I'm not holding my breath.
  Hitachi Assistant Commissioner

That would depend on the cost effectiveness of tunnel and axle load upgrades to Mareeba versus local trucking to existing intermodal sites at Cairns and Innisfail. If the market can sustain that cost it might happen, it's about the best chance Mareeba will ever have of seeing rail freight again...but I'm not holding my breath.
Sulla1

Do you mean cost effective or cost efficient?  What about safety and environmental issues with trucks on the range?  There are other fruits which are exported from the tablelands.  they could be loaded also.

What about the mineral deposits around Dimbulah?  What is happening there?

The key to rail logistics working is to reduce the amount of mode change.  Mareeba should not cost too much to start-up.  Hell, ARHSACT have just done an intermodal upgrade at Canberra. it is not that hard surely?
  Sulla1 Chief Commissioner

It is pretty hard. Fifteen tunnels likely to need enlarged clearances, a couple of significant 120-year old heritage listed steel bridges that would need strengthening...track upgrades. The line is currently restricted to 12.2-tonne axle locomotives which would exclude all of PN's fleet and almost all of Aurizon's. There's already more than one million tonnes of sugar cane trucked down the range, which doesn't seem to raise many eyebrows. The hurdles are pretty big and expensive for rail...not impossible, but a lot more complex than the Canberra start up.
  NSWGR8022 Chief Commissioner

Location: From the lands of Journalism and Free Speech
Can't well wagons be run on that line providing extra height?
  ParkesHub Chief Commissioner

Have bananas ever been on rail previously?
bevans
FCL Transport used to do several 40' reefers each day ex-TSV until Linfox bought the company and then ruined the business through pig ignorance.

QR and PN won't ship directly but will rely on the freight forwarders of the world to engage the customers.
  Sulla1 Chief Commissioner

I really don't want to be a wet blanket on this because I think the line to Mareeba has future freight potential, but ultimately I don't see any rail freight operator buying purpose specific rollingstock to move containers another 74km beyond an existing large intermodal hub (Cairns). Rail operators these days like simple and cheap solutions...complicated and expensive solutions are the things governments spend twenty years doing reports and studies on. That is not to say the Mareeba line upgrades have to be expensive or complicated. At the moment the Toowoomba line's ten tunnels are being upgraded for maxicube containers for just $17-million...and that's after nearly forty years of government planning for a billion dollar super tunnel to achieve the same outcome.

For the moment Cairns and Innisfail works for PN and Aurizon...if these companies make a play for all of the long distance banana business, they'll be doing so pushing for those existing hubs to be used. If the banana industry wants to contain the potential spread of panama via long distance B-doubles it will have to go along with what the rail operators can reasonably offer. With four highways to the coast (including two to Cairns and one to Innsfail), for the moment Mareeba will remain a hub too far.

On the Bruce Highway between Mackay and Townsville last night in a five hour period I passed around fifty refrigerated semis and b-doubles heading south with bananas, including six in one convoy, and passed PNQ's 87P2 ex-Cairns with around fifteen maxicube reefers carrying bananas among the consist. The intermodal potential is pretty big, so who knows what might happen eventually.
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Ever travelled those roads?  The trucks on that range are just dangerous.  Further south you have the mining traffic coming down the range.  it is out of control.
  ParkesHub Chief Commissioner

Ever travelled those roads?  The trucks on that range are just dangerous.  Further south you have the mining traffic coming down the range.  it is out of control.
bevans
Even the Linfox drivers I know are afraid of the cowboys up that way.
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Even the Linfox drivers I know are afraid of the cowboys up that way.
ParkesHub

Absolutely.  Never seen anything like it up that way. truck after truck after truck and lots of dangerous driving.

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