THE rail line connecting Moree and Bellata reopened as scheduled on Monday and is already carrying loads of new-crop wheat from north-west New South Wales to the Port of Newcastle.
The line closed on April 10 to allow upgrades to take place as part of the Inland Rail project, and next winter, the remainder of the Narrabri North-Moree section will close to complete the upgrade.
In the meantime, the rail line will play a vital role in shifting what will be another bumper winter crop in eastern Australia for GrainCorp, its biggest bulk handler, and other operators including Arrow, CHS Broadbent and LDC.
Pacific National (PN) hauls for GrainCorp, and expects to be moving up to 800,000t a month by running up to 30 grain services every 48 hours throughout NSW and Victoria.
Speaking at an event in Moree on Monday linked to the loading of the site’s first grain train for the season, PN chief commercial officer Andrew Thomson said the company’s grain-movement task already involved 300 workers who operate and maintain 80 locomotives and 1500 grain wagons.
“PN is also currently training 100 new recruits to meet demand in our grain-haulage business,” Mr Thomson said.
“Most of these jobs are based in the regions.”
PN recently announced a $300 million deal with UGL to acquire 50 new more environmentally friendly freight locomotives.
“These locos will operate extensively on the future Inland Rail.
“Once this new fleet is fully rolled out, Pacific National’s emissions reduction will equal 15,000 tonnes each year, with a CO2 reduction of 300 tonnes per locomotive each year.”
The diesel-electric locomotives will be assembled and manufactured largely in Newcastle.
Last season, PN ran 1000 grain services from north-western NSW to Newcastle, which is home to one of GrainCorp’s two bulk grain terminals in NSW.
Grain movements in north-west NSW slowed in April when ARTC, which is delivering the Inland Rail project, closed the line from Bellata north.
Wet weather during the closure period meant that only around 29 kilometres, or just over half the intended distance, could be upgraded.
The balance is expected to be completed when the Bellata-Narrabri North section is upgraded between April and October next year.
This will bring it on par with the Narrabri-Newcastle line, which has heavier axle loads required for it to carry coal to Newcastle for export.
“Inland Rail’s construction south of Moree has been carefully planned and accelerated to support grain movements during harvest season, allowing industry to move product and access markets while we build the corridor of commerce that can meet future freight demands,” Acting Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said.
Work is now under way on the Inland Rail stage linking North Star, just south of the Queensland border, and Camurra, a few kilometres north-east of Moree.