HOW government spends its $400 million Fixing Country Rail cash could transform the state’s agri-freight supply chain – but only if it is done right, say farm advocates.
In what has been heralded as an industry-first roundtable, the heads of various farm, government and agribusiness bodies sketched out a vision for rail and freight in NSW last week.
The effective use of government’s Fixing Country Rail program was front and centre.
There were three agreed goals to supercharge conditions for growers: Lifting main lines capabilities to a 23-tonne axel minimum, upgrading branch lines to accommodate main line locomotives, and reducing cycle times 25-to-33pc.
The NSW Farmers-convened roundtable brought together representatives from the Australian Rail Track Corporation, John Holland, GrainCorp, Pacific National, SSR, Cargill, Louis Dreyfus, Namoi Cotton and AgriGrain, as well as Transport NSW , to focus on opportunities available to growers and the supply chain.
NSW Farmers said it had been working with industry to develop a sector-wide vision to guide Fixing Country Rail decision making, and, hopefully, maximise positive returns for growers.
Chair of the NSW Farmers’ grains committee, Rebecca Reardon, said the cost of moving grain to port represented over one third of production costs.
“We’ve got a limited pool of capital. It’s big enough to make a significant difference. But if we don’t get a good spend on it, we won’t see it flow through,” she said.
“Finding ways to more efficiently move grain and drive connectivity and competition is essential to lower supply chain costs and to driving up grower returns.”
Mrs Reardon said investments must ensure that growers are net beneficiaries from any upgrades, and that investments that will have the largest impact on supply chain costs are prioritised.
“We have agreed a high-level, future vision of a network which is free of pinch and choke points, has lowered train cycle times by a minimum 25 to 33pc, and increases train payload through improvements to line carrying capacity on bulk, container and branch rail lines.”
“This vision has informed our call for Fixing Country Rail’s funding priorities to include the addressing of pinch points, the upgrade of main bulk lines to a capacity of 23 tonnes axel limit, the staged upgrade of branch lines to improve train cycle times, and to enhance competition and encourage private investment.”