Heat rule re­veals lack of in­vest­ment

AgLife - - News -

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.”

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