To resolve a standoff on noise and CO2 emissions from grain haulage, an alliance of grain freight businesses have held a roundtable with NSW Environment Minister Matthew Kean.
Representatives of Southern Shorthaul Railrod, Pacific National, LINX Cargo Care Group, CF Asia Pacific, Qube Holdings, Aurizon, Manildra Group, NSW Farmers Association, and Grain Corp amde their concerns heard to Kean.
Last week, the group had banded together to protest draft emissions thresholds which would have forced grain movements off trains and onto trucks. The discussion with Kean has allayed fears of the end of grain freight via trains, said Save our NSW grain lines spokesperson Jason Ferguson and Southern Shorthaul Railroad owner.
“To his credit, Minister Kean acknowledged the importance of allowing older, lighter diesel locomotives to continue providing essential haulage services to farmers needing to transport bulk grain from regional silos to coastal ports like Kembla and Newcastle.”
Kean also reiterated the NSW’s government’s commitment to keeping freight on rail.
“I made it clear to those present that we do not want to see rolling stock taken off tracks and replaced by trucks however we do have a duty to ensure communities are not impacted by extreme noise and air pollution just because they happen to live near rail lines,” Kean told Rail Express.
The draft emissions thresholds would have prohibited the older locomotives used to haul grain. These older locomotives are the only fit-for-purpose solution due to the older tracks – some laid 100 years ago – being unable to hold newer locomotives with heavier axel loads.
“This debate was never about industry resisting the purchase of new locomotives – it was about recognising older, lighter loco classes provide fit-for-purpose haulage services on many regional rail lines,” said Ferguson.
“The minister took our advice about expensive loco emission kit technology causing higher fuel burns and therefore CO2 emissions,” Mr Ferguson.
Due to these discussions, Ferguson expects that the final Environment Protection Licences for Rollingstock operators to take the industry’s concerns into account.
“Just like any vehicle, different types of locos have different noise profiles – the EPA’s original proposals didn’t factor this in. I’m pleased the Minister has,” said Ferguson.
Kean also saw a way forward for both the EPA and the rail freight industry.
“In what are highly technical issues, I believe we found a balance between satisfying the communities concerns whilst limiting the impact on industry,” said Kean.