AusRAIL, Market Sectors

Mildura’s Wakefield eyes Asciano rail withdrawal challenge

<p>Asciano’s planned February 5 withdrawal of Pacific National from rural rail freight in Victoria and New South Wales would cause an upheaval in Wakefield Transport Group’s operations unless changes were negotiated, Wakefield Transport Group director Ken Wakefield told <em>Lloyd’s List DCN</em> today (Monday, January 7).</p> <p>Up to 50 more B-doubles on Victorian and South Australian roads and a port-usage shift from Melbourne to Adelaide were just two ramifications for the Mildura’s firm if negotiations with Pacific National parent Asciano and the Victorian Government came to nothing, Mr Wakefield said.</p> <p>He had had discussions with Asciano officials on December 20 regarding Wakefield’s contract that expires in 2014, during which the February 5 deadline was mentioned. </p> <p>Asciano had offered a take-or-pay train but had made no other concessions.</p> <p>"We’re endeavouring to find a way through the situation," Mr Wakefield said, echoing sentiments likely to be felt by other comparable rural contractors.</p> <p>"Obviously, we are a small regional operator and they are a large conglomerate and there will be some challenges during the negotiations, I’d imagine."</p> <p>The immediate difficulty for Wakefield was sourcing road rolling stock &#8211 a four-month task according to suppliers.</p> <p>"We have a window of less than four weeks to change, in our case, an operation that’s been running since 1985," Mr Wakefield said.</p> <p>Mr Wakefield said he also had talks with the Victorian Government on Christmas Eve and expected those to continue.</p> <p>He urged the Government to implement the Fischer Report’s recommendations as a matter of urgency.</p> <p>"I’m just hoping that Government can take some of the information presented to them out of the Fischer Report and grab it by the throat," Mr Wakefield said.</p> <p>"This is a time for them to either stand up or lay down like lame ducks &#8211 it’s their call."</p> <p><em>Lloyd’s List DCN</em> was awaiting a return call form Asciano at deadline today.</p> <br />