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State and federal governments, along with grain handler CBH Group, will spend the money over the next three years to reduce delays moving grain from storage sites to port.
The state and federal governments will spend $200 million across various sites in the Wheatbelt, while grain handler CBH Group will spend another $200 million on rapid-loading bins and elevators.
CBH Group chief executive Ben Macnamara said the joint spend was "fantastic news" on the back of a record 24-million-tonne grain harvest last year, which had created logistical headaches getting grain to port.
"What this recent season has highlighted to us is the value of getting grain to port, particularly in the front half," Mr Macnamara said.
He said 24-million-tonne crops would become "the average as we move forward" and significant investment into grain supply chain infrastructure was needed across the network, from up-country sites to shipping.
Railway plays a key role in getting grain to port and on to global markets.(ABC Rural: Jo Prendergast)More grain off road and onto railThe $200m allocation of government funding was announced in May last year as round one of the Agricultural Supply Chain Improvements program.
It prompted calls from regional community groups for the money to be spent rebuilding decommissioned railway lines to reduce the amount of grain being transported on road.
WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said she was confident improving the efficiency of grain-to-port rail transport would take more grain off the roads.
She said $68m would be spent extending or upgrading 11 grain rail sidings in the Wheatbelt to allow faster loading onto trains, while the line between Carnamah and Mingenew would be upgraded from 16-tonne axle loading (TAL) to 19 TAL at a cost of $60m.
"We will see a significant reduction in the time to deliver grain to port," she said.
"We'll continue to work to get further stages [of the Agricultural Supply Chain Improvements program] funded."
A large spend on railway infrastructure is hoped to get grain to port faster. (ABC News)Ms Saffioti said $72m would be spent on recommissioning the Tier 3 Narrogin-to-Kulin line that closed in 2013.
WA's Tier 3 rail lines covering 730 kilometres were closed in 2014; a report in 2020 found it would cost more than $1 billion to reopen them.
"We've done a proper analysis and in that area we've not only got grain freight, but we've also got the resources sector — there's a kaolin resources project that has commenced — so we are working with them about how they can ship their product to port," Ms Saffioti said.
She did not rule out future spend on other Tier 3 lines.
The Wheatbelt Railway Retention Alliance was formed in 2010 to lobby for grain transport to remain on rail ahead of the closure of several Tier 3 lines.
Spokesperson Jane Fuchsbichler said some spend on Tier 3 was a "tiny step in the right direction", but much more investment into restoring Tier 3 was needed to reduce freight rates for farmers.
"This is not a full line; it's only about 50 kilometres to Tincurrin as I can understand," she said.
"CBH have said to me Tier 3 is not a priority; rather than put the heat on the government, I am disappointed at the lack of traction we have been able to get with CBH."
Mr Macnamara said CBH would prioritise projects that enabled it to get more grain to port more efficiently.
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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