Heat rule reveals lack of investment
Afarming leader believes new safety rules that prevent grain trains from running as soon as temperatures reach 33 degrees have clearly exposed a need for greater investment in rail-transport infrastructure.
Victorian Farmers Federation president David Jochinke said the rule, representing a change from 36 degrees, simply reflected that rail tracks across much of the Victorian grain belt ‘aren’t up to scratch’ to cope with the potential for ‘heat buckle’.
“In anyone’s language, especially when you live in the Wimmera and Mallee, 33 degrees is far from extreme heat. I would suggest that in February it is often rarely below that temperature,” he said.
“We can’t afford to have a restrictive system in place to deal with what’s considered normal conditions – especially during critical periods for shifting grain.”
V-Line announced the bans earlier this month, with the region’s grain harvest in full swing. The announcement came in the wake of two freighttrain derailments near Ouyen in December last year and with the Australian Transport Safety Bureau in the process of investigating the incidents.
The bans apply between noon and either 8pm or 10pm and might mean extra grain haulage on regional roads already under intense transport pressure and political scrutiny after winter and spring flooding.
Mr Jochinke said developments clearly demonstrated, especially with the State Government investing money into rail, a need to design infrastructure to cope with potential conditions and circumstances.
“It’s about making sure we have rail networks that are applicable to the industry and the environment,” he said.
“We’re going to be in a situation where we’re going to have to try to use a network at half capacity and at night and both makes everything extremely limiting.
“From a global perspective at the end of harvest in March, we in Australia have a great advantage – no one else in the world is producing at that time and we get a free kick in the export market.
“So it is critical we have the ability to operate our train sets when it matters most.
“It’s important to be able to do this all-year round, but it is particularly critical at this time of the year.”