Rural freight off the rails
RAIL services to the agricultural sector were shambolic, unreliable and seriously inefficient - jeopardising plans to double the future growth of an industry that made $11 billion last year, a State Government inquiry has found.
Network provider Aurizon, accused of favouring coal over cattle and grain haulage, had resorted to transporting subsidised agricultural product by truck to ports "because it was cheaper", State Parliament was told.
Warrego MP Howard Hobbs, chair of the Transport, Housing and Local Government committee inquiry into the rail network, said failure to support the rural sector was not an option.
"A new attitude to develop a fast, reliable freight system in Queensland is needed," Mr Hobbs said.
"The committee found that rail services to the agricultural industry are currently in a shambles.
"The committee was disturbed by reports of either no rail freight services, even where train lines exist, or slow and unreliable rail services for the non-mining sector right across this state."
Committee member and LNP Member for Morayfield Darren Grimwade highlighted the government subsidies given to Aurizon through transport service contracts to provide agricultural and cattle services on the rail network.
Mr Grimwade said it was "astounding" that Aurizon was moving the product on trucks "because it is cheaper and more efficient".
"It was amazing to get around the place to hear so many cattle graziers and those who have agriculture and livestock talking about unreliable services that do not turn up, run late et cetera," Mr Grimwade said.
"There was certainly a feel out there that Aurizon is more interested in moving coal or black rocks as it calls them, and this was something that was felt by many of the cattle graziers because it is easier to move black rocks from its point of view than it is to move livestock."
AgForce general president Ian Burnett said he supported the committee recommendations.
"We have been disappointed that ag and livestock products have really declined on the rail system," Mr Burnett said.
"We have been working with the government to try and increase the movement of ag products on rail and it is a matter of investment, planning and the desire to do it."
Mr Hobbs said product containerisation was the future of the rail network.
"We have to build new warehousing, intermodal freight depots and inland ports where the containers can be sealed and put on trains and sent straight to the port," he said.
Emerald has been identified as a future inland port.