Freight Rail

1.25km grain train reaches Newcastle

Photo: Newcastle Agri Terminal

A 73-wagon, five-locomotive train has arrived at the Port of Newcastle loaded with more than 5000 tonnes of grain.

Almost twice the length of a standard NSW grain train, and carrying nearly two-and-a-half times the tonnage, the 1250-metre train is believed to be the longest export grain train in Australian history.

Jock Carter, director of Newcastle Agri Terminal – where the train arrived on Wednesday evening – said the achievement was the result of six years of development at the terminal.

“Bigger trains means increased efficiency and lower costs, which equals better returns for growers,” Carter said. “It also frees up capacity for other users of the rail network.”

The train was loaded with wheat from a collection of north west NSW growers at Louis Dreyfus facilities in Moree and Narrabri.

The train will unload in one pass on a continuous balloon loop at the terminal. Its passage to Newcastle was made possible thanks to work by the ARTC and the port, Carter explained.

“ARTC worked with us to increase the axle load from 20 to 23 tonnes for this train,” he outlined. “This may sound small but this translates into a real saving of over $1.30 per tonne.

“The Inland Rail upgrade will further increase this to 25 tonnes. This then justifies investment in new, more productive grain wagons which leads to further cost savings.”

ARTC boss John Fullerton said the network from Newcastle to Moree provided growers with a key cost-effective solution for transporting their product.

“We have dedicated train paths ready and available today to help growers get their product to market,” Fullerton said, “and through heavier, more productive trains and improved cycle times, we can help increase farm gate returns and make the entire supply chain more efficient.”

Fullerton said Wednesday’s was one of two mega-trains to run this season, but said there was an opportunity to run many more similar services in future harvests.

Carter praised Louis Dreyfus and Newcastle Agri Terminal shareholder Agrex – a division of Mitsubishi – for committing the exporter support to make the mega-shipment possible.

“These exporters have generally been posting higher prices at up-country sites which demonstrates how larger trains and lower costs translates into higher returns for the farmer,” he said.

He called on all levels of government to support innovation in road and rail freight to deliver productivity gains to growers across NSW.

“As well as upgrades to strategic sections of regional track, road infrastructure and access improvements are needed to streamline the connectivity from farm gate to major rail interchanges.”

Federal minister for infrastructure and regional development Warren Truss said the mega-train demonstrated the massive opportunity for grain producers to save transport costs using rail.

“The size of this train more than doubles the payload capacity of the standard grain train that currently runs through the Hunter Valley network,” Truss said. “In simple terms, the increase in payload means at least a $5 to $10 a tonne reduction in hard costs for the grower – a massive saving.”

Port of Newcastle chief executive officer Geoff Crowe said facilities at the port could help the agricultural sector take advantage of larger trains.

“Port of Newcastle is the largest bulk shipping port on the east coast of Australia providing grain marketers and growers with modern storage and export facilities to take greater advantage of growth in Asia,” Crowe said.

“The Port of Newcastle is well positioned to support the growth of NSW’s grain trade, with plenty of capacity in the rail networks to the port, multiple grain terminals for ship loading and a shipping channel that can handle double the port’s current total trade.”

Australian Logistics Council boss Michael Kilgariff said longer, more efficient and more powerful trains travelling across the network had been made possible through investment in new rail infrastructure.

“[Investment] has improved axle loads and increased the amount of freight that can be shifted by rail which can deliver significant advantages to businesses, particularly agriculture,” Kilgariff said.

“Added to this, the ARTC has also worked hard to improve rail reliability, which is a critical factor when businesses weigh-up the composition of their national supply chains.

“Today’s record making trip is, I hope, the sign of things to come when it comes to the movement of agricultural products from rural and regional areas to ports.”

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