2010 Vic Grain Harvest Debacle?

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Y115 Junior Train Controller

Location: Portland

Today's grain, El Zorro's G535 unloading and alongside are about six trucks lined up.

More than 20 grain trucks passed me on the way to the port.

 
cascade39 Junior Train Controller

from "The Land" newspaper....

" Bulk handler hits back at claims

GREGOR HEARD

07 Jan, 2011 04:00 AM

AWB GrainFlow general manager Andrew Gregor has hit back at claims bulk handlers are failing growers with slow turnaround times this year.  There have been reports of lengthy turnaround times and long queues at major bulk handling sites of all companies throughout southern NSW, Victoria and South Australia.  Opening hours over the festive period were also a cause for concern among growers.

Mr Gregor said GrainFlow had steered away from policies such as the visual inspection of grain samples to assess whether grain was shot or not.  “We are offering growers a falling numbers test, realizing that there is a big difference between milling and feed wheat values.  

“This takes time, it is a minimum of five minutes for the test itself, then another couple of minutes of preparation, so you’re looking at five to ten minutes there.  “We understand it is slow, but it is the best product available at the moment, and we believe growers want the opportunity to get their grain into higher values segregations.  “If they are in a paddock that they know is not going well, they can go in a fast lane at many sites, skipping the falling numbers test.”  “It’s a fairer method than visual inspection and its easier to train harvest casuals to do than make tricky calls with visual inspection.” GrainFlow’s policy is different to Viterra, in SA, which gets its staff to visually assess samples, which has caused widespread farmer dissention.

Mr Gregor said criticisms of opening hours needed to be put in context.  “We got some stick for our opening hours at Dimboola in Victoria, but what growers don’t see are that many of the staff are busy with night transfers in order to find room for some of the segregations.  “Our staff are working the hardest they have ever done, and we have to make sure fatigue levels are managed.”  “You’d always like more equipment and more opening hours and less time transferring grain, but we are doing the best with the infrastructure we have got.”

Mr Gregor said flood bans impacting the movement of heavy machinery through NSW and Queensland had made it difficult to shift portable equipment south. He said the Dimboola site had handled up to 11,000 tonnes a day, just below its record of 12,000 tonnes in a day.  

“It’s a pretty impressive achievement when you note there are so many different segregations and stacks and that we are doing falling numbers tests.  “The record was in a year where there were few quality concerns and we were primarily tipping into the same bunkers.”

http://theland.farmonline.com.au/news/state/grains-and-cropping/grains/bulk-handler-hits-back-at-claims/2040714.aspx

 
Donald Assistant Commissioner

Location: Donald. Duck country.

PN arrived today with XR 550 & 554 and a grain set at Donald's million buschell silos to relieve them of grain.   The silos had to close last week due to being full.   Heading back to Melbourne tonight.

 
Nightfire Chief Commissioner

Location: Gippsland

PN arrived today with XR 550 & 554 and a grain set at Donald's million buschell silos to relieve them of grain.   The silos had to close last week due to being full.   Heading back to Melbourne tonight.

- Donald

You mean Bushel
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bushel

36368.72 cubic metres ?

 
cascade39 Junior Train Controller

from FARM Online ..Fairfax Media...ie the old Rural Press rural papers website...

Grain logistics hit bumps

27 Feb, 2011 03:00 AM

GRAIN exporters are reporting difficulties in getting grain onto vessels, due to the logistical issues caused by the east coast floods.

Chris Ayers, CBH eastern manager, said exporters were having an issue with cargo assembly.

“Vessels are queued up all the way down the east coast.”

GrainCorp corporate affairs manager David Ginns said it difficult getting grain from up-country sites to the ports.

“There’s virtually no rail across southern Queensland, while much of Victoria’s broad gauge network is also out of action,” he said.

Mr Ginns said the drop in rail capacity had created extra demand for road freight.  “There’s a huge amount of competition for trucks, they are effectively picking up the capacity that has been lost through railways being out of action. It’s not limited to grain, there’s a lot of bulk commodities that people want moved, which makes trucks hard to come by.

“At present, there’s an undersupply of trucks and an oversupply of demand.” He said the delays were nothing to do with GrainCorp’s ports.

“Its an issue getting grain to the ports, and we are not the default rail operator.”

AgFarm’s Brad Knight said traders were looking to supplement the grain coming in from the bulk handling network with any grain they could get ex-farm.

“Logistics and truck availability are a big issue at present.”

Mr Ayers said grain buyers were struggling to secure trucks in light of the damaged rail network, while he had also heard of some grain damaged in bunkers.

“Buyers with vessels lined up are getting grain wherever they can, there’s multiple accumulation activity, its definitely more frenetic than usual.”

FarmOnline

Source: http://www.farmonline.com

http://qcl.farmonline.com.au/news/nationalrural/grains-and-cropping/general/grain-logistics-hit-bumps/2086416.aspx

 
LowndesJ515 Chief Commissioner

Location: Goulburn

Doesnt help that there is stuff all train sets running around at the moment (floods or no floods) causing the gridlock of boats out in the high seas.

 
SamTheMan79 Chief Train Controller

Location: Geelong

A couple of ships are anchored in Corio Bay at the moment waiting for access to Bulk Grain Pier going by Regional Channels website.

It's been a while since multiple ships were anchored in the bay.

 
Carnot Chief Commissioner

It's not just Australia that's having problems getting grain from the farmgate to the port: http://www.weeklytimesnow.com.au/article/2011/02/25/297791_grain-and-hay.html

THE US transport system is failing to keep pace with grain exports, according to two experts in the field.

Speaking at a recent US Grains Council conference, American Association of Port Authorities chief executive Kurt Nagle said:

"A nation is judged by its infrastructure, and the US is getting worse by the year, if not the day."

Informa Economics senior vice-president Ken Eriksen said the transport inefficiency "devalues grain and causes bottlenecks that back up all the way to the farm gate".

 
bingley hall Minister for Railways

Location: On a freight train to crazy town

It's not just Australia that's having problems getting grain from the farmgate to the port: http://www.weeklytimesnow.com.au/article/2011/02/25/297791_grain-and-hay.html

THE US transport system is failing to keep pace with grain exports, according to two experts in the field.

.......

- Carnot



Tell me this isn't true.

bevans and freightgate will both be devastated to learn that such things can happen outside of Victoria.

 
freightgate Chief Commissioner

Location: Albury, New South Wales

It's not just Australia that's having problems getting grain from the farmgate to the port: http://www.weeklytimesnow.com.au/article/2011/02/25/297791_grain-and-hay.html

THE US transport system is failing to keep pace with grain exports, according to two experts in the field.

.......

- Carnot



Tell me this isn't true.

bevans and freightgate will both be devastated to learn that such things can happen outside of Victoria.

- bingley hall

I like you Bingley!

Can't and certainly won't talk for bevans.

Are the same reasons applicable for grain delays?  Do you see "track missing" in the usa? The USA experience is to grow rail freight, I can't see the same approach in Victoria?

--Bill

 
Bulbous Assistant Commissioner



Tell me this isn't true.

bevans and freightgate will both be devastated to learn that such things can happen outside of Victoria.

- bingley hall

I know you're being a stirrer, but the reasons for the grain issues are a bit different. In the US, it would mainly be issues with the Class 1's wanting unit train size loadings, with higher costs for smaller blocks, and much higher costs for single car loadings. Therefore more freight cars are allocated to the larger loadouts which can receive longer unit trains, and single car loadings (or small five-to-ten car blocks) are allocated freight cars on a 'when available' timeframe.....

The end result is the same though, more tonnage on the road, same number of trucks available to move the increased tonnage, less efficiency within the network overall......

 
james13 Chief Commissioner

Location: At the Skunk Works

Do you see "track missing" in the usa? The USA experience is to grow rail freight, I can't see the same approach in Victoria?

--Bill

- freightgate

At least their track is all the same gauge! A major problem for us it seems, and then there's PN...... Rolling Eyes

 
Carnot Chief Commissioner

Some interesting articles on the Grain freight situation in Victoria.  

It seems as though uncertainty is a significant barrier to action:
http://www.weeklytimesnow.com.au/article/2011/03/24/310201_grain-and-hay.html

Farmers to run the railways?:
http://www.weeklytimesnow.com.au/article/2011/03/25/310781_grain-and-hay.html

No blanket standardisation:
http://www.weeklytimesnow.com.au/article/2011/03/29/310031_grain-and-hay.html

It's kind of a given since BG tracks used by V/locity trains won't change to SG in a hurry.

 
crusty Train Controller

Another letter.....

(from)

" VICTORIAN FREIGHT AND LOGISTICS COUNCIL

21 April 2011

(to)

Mr Anthony Wing

General Manager

Transport and General Prices Oversight

ACCC

GPO Box 520

Melbourne VIC 3001

Email: transport@accc.gov.au

Dear Mr Wing,

FORMATION OF A GRAIN SUPPLY CHAIN LOGISTICS GROUP

Following the receipt of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s invitation to comment on the proposed Access Undertaking lodged by GrainCorp, the Victorian Freight and Logistics Council (VFLC) submits the following letter to advise the ACCC of our recommendation of the formation of a Victorian Grain Supply Chain Logistics Group.

Prior to the 2010-11 grain harvest season, the VFLC conducted a forum in October 2010 to provide industry with a platform to discuss harvest logistics. The VFLC’s consultation with producers, exporters and transport suppliers at the time indicated a lack of logistical capacity in storage and transport of the harvest, particularly for export.

Fast forward to April 2011, in addition to supply chain issues resulting from a bumper harvest, the flood events and heavy rain towards the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011 have further exacerbated problems in the grain supply chain.

In the interests of Victoria’s economy and struggling farming sector, the VFLC views it is vital for industry, with the full commitment of grain company boards (including GrainCorp), to form a Grain Supply Chain Logistics Group similar to the Hunter Valley Coal Chain to work on grain logistics optimisation. The Hunter Valley Coal Chain Group is a good example of a proactive collaboration by industry as a whole-of-supply chain approach is taken to maximise capacity and available resources, using a cooperative model that does not raise competition concerns.

The VFLC will write to Government and Industry supporting the formation of this group and would like to establish with the ACCC the importance of participation and commitment by grain companies.

Representatives of the VFLC would be pleased to discuss this issue further with the ACCC.

Yours sincerely,

Rose Elphick

Chief Executive Officer

Victorian Freight and Logistics Council

Victorian Freight and Logistics Council Ltd. ABN: 32 091 952 751

Level 10, 80 Collins Street, MELBOURNE VIC 3000

(ph): 03 8688 1830 (fax): 03 8688 1832 (email): vflc@transport.vic.gov.au"

http://www.accc.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/982120

 
MEASWELL Locomotive Driver

Location: werribee/tullamarine

Flood forces rail rethink from Dimboola to Yaapeet

BY MICHELLE DRYBURGH

02 May, 2011 12:00 AM

THE Department of Transport could reopen the Dimboola to Yaapeet rail line to shift almost 150,000 tonnes of grain from storage before this year's harvest.

The future of the line was in doubt after V-Line closed it late last year but the State Government has revealed funding to repair and reinstate the line could be available within months.

Minister for Public Transport and Roads Terry Mulder told the Mail-Times the government was investigating an 'innovative method' of funding to assist with reopening the line.

Mr Mulder said he was aware there was a large quantity of grain in storage along the line and the government recognised the need for efficient and low-cost transport solutions.

"The government wants, where possible, to reopen rail lines provided there is a sufficient volume of annual freight to make the investment worthwhile," he said.

"Since becoming minister I have already acted to temporarily re-open a freight line between Echuca and Toolamba, adjacent to the Goulburn Valley."

GrainCorp Rainbow site manager Joe Gould said Mr Mulder's announcement was promising.

He believed the cost of repairing flood damaged roads in the district prompted the government to make the return of rail freight a priority.

"We were under the impression the line was to be closed and never opened again," he said.

"Any news is good news."

Mr Gould said there were at least 120,000 tonnes of grain in the Yaapeet and Rainbow silos and around another 25,000 tonnes in storage at Jeparit which needed to be moved by October.

He said growers in the district were expecting another good season and GrainCorp was unsure about storage options.

"We didn't know where we were going to put it because the roads just can't handle it," he said.

"The trucks are moving now but they don't want to come to Rainbow or Yaapeet because the Jeparit-Rainbow Road is still under water, so we're not getting anywhere near as many as we'd like."

Mr Gould said he was pleased the government was putting rail 'back on the agenda' but he hoped roads were not being forgotten.

"A lot of people are using back roads and they are in such poor condition it's only a matter of time before there is a bad accident," he said.

"The condition of the roads is something we're really disappointed in and they're getting no attention."

Hindmarsh Shire councillor and former mayor Michael Gawith welcomed the announcement.

Cr Gawith appeared in the Mail-Times in January challenging the Coalition to fund rural railway lines in the Wimmera following closure of the Dimboola-Yaapeet line.

"Lifting the profile of that line is something the shire has been working towards for many years," he said.

"Grain for export needs to go on rail and be kept off the roads for safety reasons if nothing more, but I'm a firm believer it would be cheaper to maintain the railway line than the roads."

The Dimboola-Yaapeet line was ranked bronze in the Labor Government's Rail Freight Network Review in 2007, placing it at the lowest level of investment priority.

The future of the line was referred to the Department of Transport for review in December when V-Line deemed it unfit for use.

 
freightgate Chief Commissioner

Location: Albury, New South Wales

Wonderful news.  It is about time government started to take rail seriously and to get this line up and running. 120,000 tonnes of grain is quite a bit.

--Bill

 
574M - Moderator White Guru

Location: Shepparton

from FARM Online ..Fairfax Media...ie the old Rural Press rural papers website...

Rumour mill turns over CBH appeal


CBH has been quick to address an industry rumour, without actually denying it, that work had started on an appeal in case the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) ruled against Grain Express in the coming weeks.

The Pastoralist and Graziers Association (PGA) has suggested that the ACCC's appointed committee had accepted the called submissions and given its report to the Commission.

Subsequently the Commission sent a letter to those who made submissions stating the decision would be handed down by June 30.

The PGA said CBH's general manager of operations Colin Tutt had always said the co-operative didn't need Grain Express to be competitive but if that was the case then why had CBH prepared to launch an appeal process through the High Court of Australia?

CBH's acting general manager of operations Allyn Wasley said those who put in a submission were in fact sent a response from the ACCC to say the review of the decision would be handed down no later than June 30.

Mr Wasley said CBH wouldn't speculate on when or what the ACCC's decision on Grain Express would be but would continue to stand by the comments on the benefits of Grain Express.

"Grain Express is not about CBH being anti-competitive," he said.

"It is and has always been about making the WA supply chain more competitive and increasing value for growers."

He also said CBH wasn't afraid of competition and had the experience, flexibility and systems to provide the most efficient whole-of-supply chain service to the grain industry of WA, with or without the notification of Grain Express.

"Last year CBH opened the above-rail operation to tender and took the decision to invest up to $175 million in rolling stock," he said.

"The tenders for the above-rail operation and the construction of rolling stock were conducted through a globally competitive process.

"CBH has brought competition to the WA grain rail industry for the first time together with increases in productivity and efficiency."

The new rail arrangement would provide growers a competitive rail transport service and would compete on its own merits with other above-rail operators if the rules around Grain Express changed.

- Farmonline

 
574M - Moderator White Guru

Location: Shepparton

from Stock and Land, 26 May Edition, which has a front page heading Train Strain

Rail improvements needed after close call last season


WITH the possibility of another bumper crop looming, Victoria’s non-standardised rail network and the lack of rolling stock (locomotives and carriages) is causing concern among the grain industry.

Earlier this year, the Alliance of Councils for Rail Freight Development released a report titled Victorian Rail Freight Capacity and the 2010-11 Grain Harvest, put together by well-known advisor Professor Bill Russell, EW Russell & Associates.

The report stocktaked Victoria’s rail network and the movement of grain during last harvest, and made recommendations to improve the system.

Alliance chair Reid Mather, Buloke, said the report also highlighted the deficiencies in Victoria’s rail network, including the lack of competition in freight suppliers, the minimal number of trains in operation and the differences in rail gauges used within the State.

He said rail companies were lucky this year because of the floods.

“It meant there was a lot of grain being downgraded and not being sent to port,” he said.

“If it hadn’t rained, there wouldn’t have been enough trains to move it all, and with a bumper crop predicted this year, something needs to happen.”

One of the recommendations in the report was the establishment of a Rail Freight Facilitation Unit, or a “champion of rail”, Mr Mather said.

The unit would act as a statutory authority to create opportunities in rail.

“At the moment, if you want to do anything with rail, there is about three or four different bodies you have to go through,” Mr Mather said.

“We need a VicRoads equivalent for rail and this authority would cover that.”

The report also recommended the State Government make damage created by the devastating January floods a high priority for repair and certain railway lines be recommissioned, such as Dimboola to Yapeet and Shepparton to Dookie.

Increasing the amount of rolling stock was also necessary.

The report quotes only seven wheat trains in operation in Victoria - two operated by El Zorro on behalf of AWB and five operated by Pacific National – each being able to cart up to 50 hopper wagons.

“The Alliance suggests the State Government acquire or lease grain hopper wagons to use during peak demand,” Mr Mather said.

“So if there were issues with not enough rolling stock, they would assist in getting product to port. The carts could then be managed by the Rail Freight Facilitation Unit.”

The report states more than 140 standard gauge hopper wagons are lying idle within the State, after years of drought, the majority owned by Pacific National.

Member for Mildura Peter Crisp said it would be difficult to convince the two major suppliers of the commercial benefits in maintaining or increasing their rolling stock.

“There is always the question of what to do with broad gauge rolling stock when it’s not harvest,” he said.

“That is the downfall of being a nation with numerous gauge railway lines.”

This is where the government needed to take a more “holistic approach” toward the State’s rail system, according to Mr Mather, including the standardisation of gauges.

The majority of western Victoria operates on a standard gauge network, however a small portion of the State, mainly between Mildura and Echuca, still operates on a broad gauge network.

This means certain trains can only go on certain railway lines.

“The Alliance was established more than 10 years ago to help facilitate a standardised system,” he said.

“Having different gauges between the States is ridiculous, but having different gauges within Victoria just defies belief.”

Mr Mather said the Alliance would continue to lobby the State Government until action was taken.

“If we can’t get product to port to take advantage of certain markets, it will come at a cost to the grower,” he said.

“If the State Government is all for economic growth, then rail has to be taken more seriously."

Full report in this week’s Stock and Land, Thursday, May 26 edition

- Stock and Land

 
574M - Moderator White Guru

Location: Shepparton

from Stock and Land, 26 May Edition

Working on freight solutions

VICTORIA’S grain freight system needs urgent addressing, according to VFF grains group vice president and logistics spokesman Peter Tuohey.

“At present, we are trying to get a freight plan together.

“The process is started through the Victorian Freight Logistics Scheme, but we need to clarify a pathway for reform.

“We need to prioritise which rail lines are first in line for funding, then which roads need attention.

Mr Tuohey acknowledged the rail network in Victoria was better than in neighbouring states, such as NSW, where the branch lines are in a state of advanced decay, but said this did not mean there were not serious issues here.

“We saw last year what can happen with a big harvest, there were hold-ups getting grain to port, which cost exporters and growers money.”

Mr Tuohey said while the floods were a large part of the reason there were difficulties, many of the problems still would have happened without flooding, due to a lack of capacity.

“We just saw what happened when a couple of lines went down (the Yaapeet and Robinvale lines were damaged by floods and are inoperable still), it was like a lane of the freeway being closed.

“All of a sudden you had all this grain moved by road to port and there were massive queues and lengthy turnaround times, which hindered the ability to get the grain on the water.”

“It will also be an issue into next year, as there seems certain to be a larger amount of carryover grain than usual, which will put strain on sites if there is an average or better season this year.

“That’s the problem, without adequate rail, it can all back up so quick.”

Mr Tuohey said the VFF was pragmatic and acknowledged there may be too many branch lines to sustain.

“Where there are rail lines only 15 kilometres apart, perhaps it will be best to focus on key lines, but we firstly need to identify which lines work best.”

He said standardisation should be a key major target.

“It’s hard to get people willing to invest in above-rail broad gauge infrastructure, such as locomotives and wagons, as the only place you can run it is on certain lines in northern Victoria.

“That compares to broad gauge lines, where you can run on all the ARTC (Australian Rail Track Corporation) lines, you can go up to the coal fields in NSW or right up to the Top End, should the demand be there. Broad gauge only has limited use.”

“We want to get as much grain moved by rail as possible, its better for the roads, its better to outload at the ports and it is more efficient.

“We just need to identify which areas represent the most value and lobby the government hard to provide the funds to get these lines up to scratch.”

Full report in this week’s Stock and Land, Thursday, May 26 edition

- Stock and Land

 
mm42 Train Controller

PacNat grain wagons stored near Ararat

Does anyone have a good count of these ?  I went past today and made this approximate count

East rake

31 wagons x 100 tonne

Middle rake

55 wagons comprised of ...

7 x 100 tonne

~20 x 46 tonne

~28 x 76 tonne

West rake

~20 x 76 tonne

All-up a capacity of ~8368 tonnes

Some, particularly in the middle rake, had sections of rusted plate.  Most had Freight Australia branding on them, from the last time when an innovative operator owned them and upgraded them.  The wagons have a sense of foreboding over the market - if anyone dares build more wagons, PacRat has the potential undercut them using these wagons.

 
bevans - Administrator Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia

even more alarming is the next harvest due in coming months which could be bigger than the last.  I am advised there is over 1 million tonnes of grain still to come out of northern victoria before the next harvest comes on stream.

Who is the Blame?

This is becoming a national disgrace!

Regards

Brian

 
bingley hall Minister for Railways

Location: On a freight train to crazy town



Who is the Blame?

Regards

Brian

- bevans



The previous Liberal Government sold them to the private sector.

End of story.

 
SteamtoStay Chief Commissioner

Location: Building floorplates

Who is the Blame?

- bevans

The previous Liberal Government sold them to the private sector.

End of story.

- bingley hall



Well, yes and no.

Yes, it's their fault.

No, it's not because they leased it to the private sector, but more a matter of how they did it.

If they'd included in the contract a minimum service provision over the life of the contract, that would have helped. Or something about minimum use of rollingstock or it falls back to the Vic Govt's ownership. Or a lease of rollingstock that could be terminated at X months notice, rather than a fixed term of 45 years (personally, I wouldn't have done more than 15 years).

And leasing the lot to a single operator was also a mistake.

On the other hand, the government of the time was in a rush to a) pay off Victoria's substantial debts, and b) to pull a few teeth out of what I understand was a dangerously millitant union. They suceeded on both counts, but in retrospect they could have done it better if they'd had more time to think about it.

 
bingley hall Minister for Railways

Location: On a freight train to crazy town

Who is the Blame?

- bevans

The previous Liberal Government sold them to the private sector.

End of story.

- bingley hall



Well, yes and no.

Yes, it's their fault.

No, it's not because they leased it to the private sector, but more a matter of how they did it.

If they'd included in the contract a minimum service provision over the life of the contract, that would have helped. Or something about minimum use of rollingstock or it falls back to the Vic Govt's ownership. Or a lease of rollingstock that could be terminated at X months notice, rather than a fixed term of 45 years (personally, I wouldn't have done more than 15 years).

And leasing the lot to a single operator was also a mistake.

On the other hand, the government of the time was in a rush to a) pay off Victoria's substantial debts, and b) to pull a few teeth out of what I understand was a dangerously millitant union. They suceeded on both counts, but in retrospect they could have done it better if they'd had more time to think about it.

- SteamtoStay



The locomotives and wagons were sold not leased.

The track was leased and then the government was blackmailed by the private sector into taking it back.

A dangerously militant union eh?

Now you have a dangerously non-unionised road system.

 
SteamtoStay Chief Commissioner

Location: Building floorplates

A dangerously militant union eh?

- bingley hall



In general I have no problem with unions, and at the moment I reckon it'd be nice if they were doing more to help out some of the staff that Metro HQ's been trying to walk over (unless they are doing it, and I don't know about it).

But parking 30-odd trams in the middle of the city for a month is not on, nor are strikes to protect workers whose jobs should be made redundant (as long as those people are offered other jobs with similar or better conditions).

 

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