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PN grain train suspension puts boxes on road, says freight firm

<p>A Melbourne-based logistics firm says a Pacific National decision to suspend grain services to Portland will force it to send boxes on road at much greater cost.</p> <p>Anchor Logistics is a company that has been using the service, which has run a mix of grain and container wagons, to send boxes out of Portland via rail.</p> <p>But the service was suspended last week, pending a decision in the New Year, with Pacific National citing a lack of grain volumes as the reason for its decision.</p> <p> Anchor Logistics customer service manager David Maltman said his company placed orders through the Portland-based Kalari firm to pack Alcoa Aluminium smelter ingots into containers to be railed to Melbourne.</p> <p>They would now have to go by truck at greater cost &#8211 the rail option was $12.97 a tonne cheaper, Mr Maltman said.</p> <p>"I thought we were trying to keep trucks off the road," he said.</p> <p>"We are going to have a lot of cargo in January and we are going to have to pay through the nose to do it by road, especially with all the contracts we have."</p> <p>Mr Maltman said the company presently sent about 80 containers of the ingots a month on rail from Portland.</p> <p>The company also ships another Alcoa product, Bath&#47cryolite, which is packed in one-tonne bags into containers to be railed for export to other smelters around the world.</p> <p>That will also now have to go by truck &#8211 if it remains viable to continue taking the product from Portland, he said.</p> <p>Pacific National’s sudden decision to suspend services had given rail freight users little time to arrange alternatives, he said.</p> <p>Mr Maltman said the previous operator, Freight Australia, which Pacific National bought earlier this year, had kept the service regular.</p> <p>"While it was Freight Australia we always had a service," he said. "Even when it was reduced during the drought, we still had a service."</p> <p>Pacific National said it had suspended the service because of uncertainty about grain volumes out of the western grain region.</p> <p>The present harvest is being affected by unseasonal weather, a company spokesman said. </p> <p>"The uncertainty of the current harvest is leading farmers to retain their grain on site in storage until it is clear what the outcome of the harvest is," he said.</p> <p>The status of the service will be reviewed in January when the company has "clarity on grain volumes".</p> <p>The Portland service is primarily a grain train, which also hauls some container wagons &#8211 it is not a stand-alone container service, the spokesman said.</p> <br />