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Call for Wheatbelt to Bunbury rail link

Shadow Transport Minister Ken Travers has called for a rail link between Bunbury and the Wheatbelt to enable grain to be exported from the South West city’s port.GROWERS and grain industry representatives have said Shadow Transport Minister Ken Travers has “jumped the gun” in calling for the rail link between Bunbury and the Wheatbelt to be re-opened.

Mr Travers made the claim last week on the back of Farm Weekly’s report that the Bunbury Port Authority was in negotiations with two export companies which had the potential to export a combined total of up to two million tonnes of grain a year.

If acted upon, the rail line re-opening would ensure potential grain freight through the South West would reach Bunbury Port without significant risk to road users.

However, it had not yet been confirmed if the Bunbury Port would export WA grain in the near future.

“The existing transport infrastructure will not support the export of this amount of grain through Bunbury,” Mr Travers said.

“The export of two million tonnes of grain product would result in around 85,000 additional truck movements a year, or an average of 232 a day, creating bumper to bumper traffic during peak periods.

“Hundreds of millions of dollars would need to be invested to cope with the additional pressure on the Coalfields Highway which is currently the major transport link between Bunbury and the Wheatbelt.”

Mr Travers said there were originally three rail lines which connected Bunbury to the Wheatbelt – Bunbury to Wagin via Collie, Bunbury to Narrogin via Collie and Bunbury to Katanning via Donnybrook.

His anticipatory belief that the Barnett Government should cancel the feasibility study into a new rail link between Kwinana and Merredin and use the funding to investigate re-opening one of the original rail links between Bunbury and Merredin had industry members curious.

“Ultimately that is a matter for the Bunbury Port to discuss with potential users,” Transport Minister Troy Buswell said.

“There are also potential alternate grain exporters in discussion with Albany Port.

“There is a lot of movement at the moment in and around how grain is freighted and exported.

“Ultimately I think that will manifest in some investments in some ports eventually.

“But I think we have to wait for the dust to settle on those commercial processes before we rush out and start investing in port infrastructure.

“I note the ridiculous situation yesterday where the Shadow Transport Minister suggested that the Government should be investing hundreds of millions of dollars in rail infrastructure on the basis that the Bunbury Port has had a discussion with someone about transporting grain.

“That is lunacy.

“We need to wait for this process to play out and then, if investment is required, we’ll consider it at an appropriate time.”

Mr Travers also said the State Government’s Kwinana to Merredin proposal did nothing to develop regional WA and only added further pressure to the already congested Kwinana area.

“A Bunbury to Merredin rail link could be used for grain and eventually be upgraded to handle the expected growth in container traffic, supporting Bunbury Port’s long-held desire to become a container terminal,” Mr Travers said.

“Developing a new rail line from Kwinana would cut private properties in half and seriously impact on the efficient operation of many farms.

“Re-opening one of the old rail lines is a lot more sensible, will promote regional development and have less impact on people’s private property.”

A CBH Group spokesperson denied CBH’s involvement in the Bunbury Port export negotiations, while an AWB spokesperson was unwilling to comment on whether it was involved in the Bunbury Port export negotiations.

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