Watco to take on the Northern Cattle Contract

 
  Sulla1 Chief Commissioner

Watco has now secured all three Queensland Government cattle transport contracts, with the state Transport Minister, Mark Bailey, announcing Watco's winning bid for the Northern Contract on the Mt Isa line and south from Townsville on the North Coast Line starting in 2022.

The new contract will need 22 additional locomotive drivers between 2022 and 2023, a new spelling facility near Townsville (replacing the Julago spelling yards and branch south of Partington on the NCL) and additional cattle loading sites along the northern corridor. New crew depots are to be established at Townsville and Hughenden.

Currently Aurizon operates cattle trains from Cloncurry and Julia Creek, also loading at Richmond. After spelling at Julago, Aurizon services run to Rockhampton and Dinmore (Cloncurry to Dinmore is 2,121km by rail and 1,673km by road). Watco will need at least four cattle train sets to match Aurizon's rail operations over these distances.

https://www.queenslandcountrylife.com.au/story/7586112/watco-east-west-to-operate-three-qld-cattle-rail-services/?cs=4785&fbclid=IwAR11BzryUfHtaWZHCPLSpB6fUP9Sq388WGXfVlsh-ilZOXi6Vb7rJcNy_gg

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  8502 Assistant Commissioner


The new contract will need 22 additional locomotive drivers between 2022 and 2023, a new spelling facility near Townsville (replacing the Julago spelling yards and branch south of Partington on the NCL) and additional cattle loading sites along the northern corridor. New crew depots are to be established at Townsville and Hughenden.
Sulla1

Just a question from me who does not understand cattle and trains but why if the queensland network is open access are the existing facilities not being used?  Why the need for new spelling sidings?

Does this now spell the end of Aurizon and cattle trains?
  Sulla1 Chief Commissioner


The new contract will need 22 additional locomotive drivers between 2022 and 2023, a new spelling facility near Townsville (replacing the Julago spelling yards and branch south of Partington on the NCL) and additional cattle loading sites along the northern corridor. New crew depots are to be established at Townsville and Hughenden.
Just a question from me who does not understand cattle and trains but why if the queensland network is open access are the existing facilities not being used?  Why the need for new spelling sidings?

Does this now spell the end of Aurizon and cattle trains?
8502

Livestock handling facilities are a bit like grain handling facilities, with different owners (usually regional councils) and different user agreements. Aurizon, other rail operators and third parties can also own sidings and industry related trackage, which are outside the scope of QR's Network Access agreements and a potential issue when haulage contracts change.

In the case of the Northern cattle contract, I believe most of the cattle sidings and spurs are owned by QR, with the possible exception of Cloncurry - QR's System Information Pack indicates Aurizon owns the Cloncurry siding.

The Julago facility does have some roadtrain access issues - and is also used to load cattle coming down from Cape York, so Watco may be interested in building a better integrated facility like that at Morven. PN regularly turns its locomotives on the QR-owned Julago branch, so open access to the trackage does not appear to be the issue.

As best as I can, the Northern contract was last to be retained by Aurizon, so, yes, I think this is the end of cattle haulage for Aurizon for the moment - unless it pursues contracts outside of those provided by the state government.
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia

The new contract will need 22 additional locomotive drivers between 2022 and 2023, a new spelling facility near Townsville (replacing the Julago spelling yards and branch south of Partington on the NCL) and additional cattle loading sites along the northern corridor. New crew depots are to be established at Townsville and Hughenden.
Just a question from me who does not understand cattle and trains but why if the queensland network is open access are the existing facilities not being used?  Why the need for new spelling sidings?

Does this now spell the end of Aurizon and cattle trains?


As best as I can, the Northern contract was last to be retained by Aurizon, so, yes, I think this is the end of cattle haulage for Aurizon for the moment - unless it pursues contracts outside of those provided by the state government.
Sulla1

As the new owners of the NT line perhaps they can start to develop those markets based on the recent business case details of which can be found at https://www.railpage.com.au/f-p2233883.htm#2233883
  Sulla1 Chief Commissioner

Watco also announced today it has purchased cattle yards in Dalby. These will be used to run a new "Feedlot Express" service from Morven to Dalby.

Currently cattle rail transport in Queensland is focussed on moving cattle from grassfed pasture regions to meatworks, however large quantities of cattle are now grain fattened at feedlots, a transport task handled exclusively by road at the moment.

https://www.beefcentral.com/news/rail-company-to-ship-feeder-cattle-decreasing-reliance-on-meat-works/
  Graham4405 The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: In exile
Watco also announced today it has purchased cattle yards in Dalby. These will be used to run a new "Feedlot Express" service from Morven to Dalby.
Sulla1
Interesting. The only yards adjacent to the Western Line in Dalby are those at the junction of Healy Street and Fishbourne Street. These haven't been used to load/unload cattle onto/from rail for many years and are likely in need of upgrading. There aren't many pens available, but they are surrounded by vacant land which may be available for expansion, including truck parking.

  emerald-a Junior Train Controller

Are there  enough drivers who have no good options for employment to enable Watco to get the 22 drivers needed?
  1771D Train Controller

Anyone still driving for Aurizon maybe…..
  gotroppo Beginner

Location: Townsville, Australia
Will be interesting to see what WatCo can make of this contract - certainly in the winter months, Aurizon has been fairly busy running trains from the west down to (predominantly) the Abattoir in Rockhampton. And given the speeds capable now, I'm not even sure they're using spelling yards much (if at all).

It would seem the siding at Julago is mostly used to direct stock into the abattoir in Stuart (although Aurizon have currently parked a full rake in there for storage).

But there is untapped potential. From what I can see, the cattle yards at Mount Isa haven't been serviced by rail in some time leaving just Cloncurry, Oorindi, Julia Creek, Richmond and Hughenden potentially still in use. No cattle is currently taken into the Port of Townsville by rail despite there being almost continual departures of live export ships (so we end up with an almost constant stream of triple road trains through the port access road - although I'm guessing the smell passing through the inner city might be the issue).

The old yard at Nelia was destroyed by QR after the 2019 floods when they built the diversion through the middle of the yard - but this too could be rectified. Worse, one of the largest saleyards in the region at Charters Towers - once served by a rail connection - is also no more despite the line passing within metres of the property.

There is also a relatively new spelling facility at Reid River (although access across the Flinders Hwy might be an issue) and there is at least one feedlot on the plains around Woodstock that could also be serviced - but both of these will require new sidings & yards.
  Sulla1 Chief Commissioner

Will be interesting to see what WatCo can make of this contract - certainly in the winter months, Aurizon has been fairly busy running trains from the west down to (predominantly) the Abattoir in Rockhampton. And given the speeds capable now, I'm not even sure they're using spelling yards much (if at all).

It would seem the siding at Julago is mostly used to direct stock into the abattoir in Stuart (although Aurizon have currently parked a full rake in there for storage).

But there is untapped potential. From what I can see, the cattle yards at Mount Isa haven't been serviced by rail in some time leaving just Cloncurry, Oorindi, Julia Creek, Richmond and Hughenden potentially still in use. No cattle is currently taken into the Port of Townsville by rail despite there being almost continual departures of live export ships (so we end up with an almost constant stream of triple road trains through the port access road - although I'm guessing the smell passing through the inner city might be the issue).

The old yard at Nelia was destroyed by QR after the 2019 floods when they built the diversion through the middle of the yard - but this too could be rectified. Worse, one of the largest saleyards in the region at Charters Towers - once served by a rail connection - is also no more despite the line passing within metres of the property.

There is also a relatively new spelling facility at Reid River (although access across the Flinders Hwy might be an issue) and there is at least one feedlot on the plains around Woodstock that could also be serviced - but both of these will require new sidings & yards.
gotroppo

Julago still has to be used to spell cattle with transit times in excess of 24-hours - cattle then have to be spelled for at least 12-hours. As such, trains from Cloncurry and Julia Creek unload at Julago, then reload the following day to go to Rockhampton and Brisbane. Cattle are also trucked in from Cape York to be loaded onto trains at Julago too apparently.

Cattle loaded at Charters Towers used to be able to transit by rail through Townsville without spelling, but unfortunately cattle haven't been railed out of Charters Towers for several years.
  gotroppo Beginner

Location: Townsville, Australia
Will be interesting to see what WatCo can make of this contract - certainly in the winter months, Aurizon has been fairly busy running trains from the west down to (predominantly) the Abattoir in Rockhampton. And given the speeds capable now, I'm not even sure they're using spelling yards much (if at all).

It would seem the siding at Julago is mostly used to direct stock into the abattoir in Stuart (although Aurizon have currently parked a full rake in there for storage).

But there is untapped potential. From what I can see, the cattle yards at Mount Isa haven't been serviced by rail in some time leaving just Cloncurry, Oorindi, Julia Creek, Richmond and Hughenden potentially still in use. No cattle is currently taken into the Port of Townsville by rail despite there being almost continual departures of live export ships (so we end up with an almost constant stream of triple road trains through the port access road - although I'm guessing the smell passing through the inner city might be the issue).

The old yard at Nelia was destroyed by QR after the 2019 floods when they built the diversion through the middle of the yard - but this too could be rectified. Worse, one of the largest saleyards in the region at Charters Towers - once served by a rail connection - is also no more despite the line passing within metres of the property.

There is also a relatively new spelling facility at Reid River (although access across the Flinders Hwy might be an issue) and there is at least one feedlot on the plains around Woodstock that could also be serviced - but both of these will require new sidings & yards.

Julago still has to be used to spell cattle with transit times in excess of 24-hours - cattle then have to be spelled for at least 12-hours. As such, trains from Cloncurry and Julia Creek unload at Julago, then reload the following day to go to Rockhampton and Brisbane. Cattle are also trucked in from Cape York to be loaded onto trains at Julago too apparently.

Cattle loaded at Charters Towers used to be able to transit by rail through Townsville without spelling, but unfortunately cattle haven't been railed out of Charters Towers for several years.
Sulla1
Cheers for that - I very rarely pop round the back to the yards at Julago so have never actually seen this in action. Shame about the yards at Charters Towers - don't know how many times I've driven past to see pens full of cattle waiting to be collected by road trains. And I did wonder if, for cattle out near Mt Isa, it would be faster to transport them to Darwin for export (although the trucking them would still be pushing a 24 hour transit as well)?

Oh well, if nothing it'll be interesting to see yet another livery on the Mount Isa line.
  Sulla1 Chief Commissioner

Watco WRBs 2188 and 2184 arrived in Townsville yesterday afternoon as light engines. I'm not sure if their arrival is related to the new cattle contract, but it seems likely. Cattle operations usually start in March in North and Central Queensland.
  Sulla1 Chief Commissioner

It looks like Watco is running into trouble with its Northern Cattle contract, with no agreement in place to use Aurizon-owned cattle yards and cattle loading facilities - and a lot of time and money will be needed to build new facilities if no agreement can made with Aurizon. Traditionally the cattle railing season starts in March, but Watco is now aiming for the end of April.

Watco has also had difficulties moving rollingstock to Clermont and Julia Creek as planned due to the North Coast Line flooding early in March.

While Watco does have a sizeable KOJX cattle wagon fleet in place, it continues to lack locomotives and regional crew recruitment has reportedly been slow.

For its existing 1-million tonne grain contract with GrainCorp and three regional cattle train contracts covering most of the 6,600km QR network and most of Aurizon's 2,700km network, Watco currently has 8 WRA locomotives, 5 WRB locomotives, 3 additional WRBs under overhaul and one 1720 under overhaul.

The long hauls out of the north (2,150km from Cloncurry to Dinmore) will dictate a sizeable expansion in the Watco fleet if it's to even meet Aurizon's operations of the last decade, let alone expand the rail haul business as it has planned.


https://www.beefcentral.com/news/northern-livestock-trains-to-start-in-april-as-aurizon-locks-some-loading-yards/?fbclid=IwAR30AGCRUVqkzwZxrMjAjtlKABQQxq1s4NkC5gGtS7zNWE4DSsYxUR9AGf0#.Ykep3EYGkop.facebook
  Expost Chief Commissioner

I saw 3 Watco light engines heading north around Epala, a couple of days ago. I didnt note the loco numbers, except third in line was a GWN, still in G&W livery. Not sure if they went west or north at Rocklands.
  james.au Minister for Railways

Location: Sydney, NSW
It looks like Watco is running into trouble with its Northern Cattle contract, with no agreement in place to use Aurizon-owned cattle yards and cattle loading facilities - and a lot of time and money will be needed to build new facilities if no agreement can made with Aurizon. Traditionally the cattle railing season starts in March, but Watco is now aiming for the end of April.

Watco has also had difficulties moving rollingstock to Clermont and Julia Creek as planned due to the North Coast Line flooding early in March.

While Watco does have a sizeable KOJX cattle wagon fleet in place, it continues to lack locomotives and regional crew recruitment has reportedly been slow.

For its existing 1-million tonne grain contract with GrainCorp and three regional cattle train contracts covering most of the 6,600km QR network and most of Aurizon's 2,700km network, Watco currently has 8 WRA locomotives, 5 WRB locomotives, 3 additional WRBs under overhaul and one 1720 under overhaul.

The long hauls out of the north (2,150km from Cloncurry to Dinmore) will dictate a sizeable expansion in the Watco fleet if it's to even meet Aurizon's operations of the last decade, let alone expand the rail haul business as it has planned.


https://www.beefcentral.com/news/northern-livestock-trains-to-start-in-april-as-aurizon-locks-some-loading-yards/?fbclid=IwAR30AGCRUVqkzwZxrMjAjtlKABQQxq1s4NkC5gGtS7zNWE4DSsYxUR9AGf0#.Ykep3EYGkop.facebook
Sulla1
More evidence as to why terminals and rail are not necessarily correct to privatise together.
  bingley hall Minister for Railways

Location: Last train to Skaville
I saw 3 Watco light engines heading north around Epala, a couple of days ago. I didnt note the loco numbers, except third in line was a GWN, still in G&W livery. Not sure if they went west or north at Rocklands.
Expost

When did Watco buy the GWNs?

Surely they are still currently owned by One Rail Australia and used on their coal contract up there.
  Sulla1 Chief Commissioner

I saw 3 Watco light engines heading north around Epala, a couple of days ago. I didnt note the loco numbers, except third in line was a GWN, still in G&W livery. Not sure if they went west or north at Rocklands.

When did Watco buy the GWNs?

Surely they are still currently owned by One Rail Australia and used on their coal contract up there.
bingley hall

One Rail's GWNs are usually only seen on the Goonyella Network and doing trips into Mackay to One Rail's maintenance sidings. It is very unusual for one to be south of Rockhampton in the company of Watco locomotives. One Rail only has enough locos to run one coal set, with a fifth kept as a spare.

Things might be changing with the arrival of the four ORN class GT46CU-ACe Gen III - they were off loaded in Mackay last week and were being trucked to a commissioning site yesterday.
  djukinX1016 Deputy Commissioner

Its interesting to see that the shift from Aurizon to Watco has had issues as here in the WA Aurizon won the grain contract from Watco and it is Aurizon struggling to run the contracted grain trains with lots of cancellations due to lack of crews, loco failures etc. Hopefully it will settle down soon as we are seeing trucks filling the gap and carting from rail served CBH bins.
  Sulla1 Chief Commissioner

Its interesting to see that the shift from Aurizon to Watco has had issues as here in the WA Aurizon won the grain contract from Watco and it is Aurizon struggling to run the contracted grain trains with lots of cancellations due to lack of crews, loco failures etc. Hopefully it will settle down soon as we are seeing trucks filling the gap and carting from rail served CBH bins.
djukinX1016

It always seems a problem with the modern day horse trading of contracts, particularly those taken from legacy operators. The situation is further complicated by Aurizon's new found love for everything Bulk. I believe it worked exceptionally hard to retain the Northern Cattle contract that it eventually lost to Watco.
  KRviator Moderator

Location: Up the front
Its interesting to see that the shift from Aurizon to Watco has had issues as here in the WA Aurizon won the grain contract from Watco and it is Aurizon struggling to run the contracted grain trains with lots of cancellations due to lack of crews, loco failures etc.
djukinX1016
Crewing is a major problem nationwide, with companies like PN now resorting to offering sign-on bonuses to try to poach staff. What they often fail to consider though, is retention of those staff...When Aurizon got the CBH contract they were after 150 new Driver's for their WA operations - and if you go by their ongoing advertising for crew over there, they must've fallen significantly short of their needs.

A bloke I know put in for NSWTrainLink when they did the big recruting drive last year and was told they recognise they are going to lose a lot of staff in the next year or three due to an aging workforce and want to try to avoid the dramas QR or SydneyTrains have found themselves in by recruiting now and I guess having an overlap of Driver's throughou that transition. Seems a surprisingly heads-up move from a Government agency!
  Sulla1 Chief Commissioner

Watco ran its first cattle train to Cloncurry on Monday with WRB 2174, WRB 2177 and 20 KOJX heading west from Townsville, after completing a trip from Warwick. The train returned to Townsville on Wednesday.

At this stage Cloncurry is the only cattle yard Watco can use, it is still locked out of Aurizon-owned yards at Julia Creek,  Richmond and Hughenden.
  Sulla1 Chief Commissioner
  Bulbous Deputy Commissioner

Same as the CBH contract here in WA - Aurizon removing access to sidings in Avon Yard (Aurizon owns the yard from the privatisation) specifically to hamstring Watco, then used the latent capacity available by reactivating those same sidings as a sweetener for the contract win this year. The media reports actually praised the 'immediate investments in capacity' that Aurizon brought to the table.... Rolling Eyes

Cheers,

Matt

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