Is there a future for the EP grain train?

Jul 08, 2017

By Darren Arney, CEO, Grain Producers SA

A single train currently transports between 750,000 and 850,000 tonnes of grain each year from 15 up-country sites across the Eyre Peninsula into the Port Lincoln export terminal.

The rail services provider has an agreement for rail services which is due to expire in 2018. It is unclear what the future of rail will be on the Eyre Peninsula after 2018.

If there are no or reduced rail services on the Eyre Peninsula, it is unclear as to:

  • The impact this will have on grain producer freight costs to move grain to Port Lincoln for export;
  • What road upgrades would be required in the geographic area should rail services cease; and
  • How this will impact the state and regional infrastructure plans in respect of the Eyre Peninsula’s rail and road export freight options.

Rail provides important capacity for grain producers on Eyre Peninsula in the production, delivery and marketing of grain during the season. Grain producers consider transport options when planning, not only for each season, but also when developing longer term plans, looking to ensure security and stability for future generations. The existence of a reliable rail service in linking up-country sites to port, alongside the efficient provision of storage and handling infrastructure, has been an important part of ensuring grain is produced and exported systematically and profitably, and will continue to be an important element in the future.

Eyre Peninsula grain producers in the past have contributed $2 million to the upgrade of the rail system through the Eyre Peninsula Grain Growers Rail Fund. Surplus funds from this fund were then distributed to other projects, outside rail maintenance, for the benefit of Eyre Peninsula grain producers. Despite this, the rail lines continue to be isolated from the standard gauge network and ongoing investment in the rail infrastructure will be required so as to ensure it doesn’t decline.

Grain is now the only commodity moved by rail from Kimba and Wudinna into Port Lincoln. There are restrictions on rail carriage weight and speed, with weather events resulting in reduced rail services.

Road freight alternatives using larger truck configurations which can operate year-round are increasingly becoming more economic. 

Grain Producers SA remains committed to working with service providers to ensure a stable and economically viable industry for grain producers across South Australia.

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