SOUTH Australian bulk handler Viterra and rail-freight operator Aurizon are pushing to reinstate the Eyre Peninsula’s mothballed rail network which has not carried grain to Port Lincoln since 2019.
Aurizon and Viterra have submitted a formal application to the Federal Government for funding to upgrade and reopen the Eyre Peninsula linking Cummins to Port Lincoln and to Wudinna and Kimba on separate lines.
The proposal includes upgrading the currently closed narrow-gauge Port Lincoln-Cummins line, and the lines to Kimba and Wudinna so trains can run with increased axle weights and higher speeds.
Government backing sought
Viterra Australia chief operations officer, James Murray said Viterra supported reinstating rail on the Eyre Peninsula to benefit local growers and communities and its export customers.
“Viterra operates an efficient and effective fully-integrated network on the Eyre Peninsula and is committed to a long-term future in the region,” Mr Murray said.
“Partnering with Aurizon and the State and Federal Governments to fund an upgraded rail system on the Eyre Peninsula would create significant long-term economic, social and environmental benefits for local growers and communities, export customers, government and flow on effects for the state.
“For Eyre Peninsula growers, it means they will have more opportunities to achieve higher prices for their grain, with increased supply-chain capacity and shipments in the first half of the year when global demand for Australian grain is higher and pricing is at a premium.
“The project will also provide reductions in freight costs, which Viterra passes back to grower customers.”
Mr Murray said positives from the project include the reduction of approximately 25,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent a year, and the removal of approximately 42,000 truck movements between up-country sites and Port Lincoln annually.
Infrastructure upgrades will follow
If the project receives government funding, significant upgrades will take place at Viterra’s sites to support the reintroduction of rail in the region.
This will include fast rail outloading infrastructure at Viterra’s Lock, Wudinna, Cummins, Kimba and Rudall sites to maximise efficiency, and inloading infrastructure at Viterra’s Port Lincoln terminal to reduce turnaround times for rail and increase volume capabilities.
Aurizon and Viterra have said they will make long-term commitments to the EP rail network if it is reinstated.
Aurizon will maintain the line once upgraded and invest in the rollingstock fleet to meet Viterra’s commitment of moving at least 1.3Mt of grain on the rail network each year.
Aurizon’s Adelaide-based general manager Bulk Central, Matt Jones says Aurizon is keen to invest in and grow its rail business following on from its acquisition of One Rail in mid-2022.
“Aurizon is the nation’s largest hauler of grain, supporting growers in South Australia, Western Australia, New South Wales and Queensland,” Mr Jones said.
“We see a great opportunity to work with Viterra and provide efficient and reliable supply chain operations for grain producers and to get grain back on rail on the Eyre Peninsula, one of Australia’s most valuable and productive grain-growing regions.
“Not only is rail the most efficient mode for bulk freight like grain, but it also delivers major benefits for the community by reducing the need for thousands of truck journeys on regional roads and achieving a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.”
The agriculture industry is an important economic contributor to the state and regional economies, with the 2022-23 crop having an estimated value of around $5.3B.