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If there was any time to put more freight on rail it is now after the damning report by the Auditor General regarding the atrocious condition of Victorian roads and highways.
The Auditor General sighted the increase in freight being moved by truck and the fact that Victoria's roads were built to carry trucks of 40 tonnes and now carry B doubles and semi trailers at 80 tonnes. Vic Roads has difficulty keeping up with the continual maintenance of the roads because of the damage done by trucks.
Jeff Kennett we have to thank for this situation when he succumbed to Transport Baron and political party donation pressure and decided in 1996 to move 6.4 million tonnes intrastate freight rail and give the freight to the road transport industry on a Liberal Party crystal and silver platter.
The tonnage of freight carried by trucks has exponentially grown since 1996 matching the considerable deterioration in Victoria's roads, highways and bridges.
In the 2014 harvest, Grain Corp logged 40,000 truck movements of grain across the state.
Returning from Dunolly after and evening meeting, I passed heading in the opposite direction 6 x B Double Grain Trucks travelling in convoy heading to Melbourne at 10pm and they certainly weren't travelling at 100KPM by the level of the back draft caused by their speed. Obviously, using the cover of darkness to move the grain so as not to bring attention to themselves and flout the road speed limit.
No wonder the roads and highways are in the state they are in and the tax payer is continually forking out for the repairs and maintenance of them.
I have spoken to an Agriculture Department spoke person regarding the amount of grain and cereal crop that comes out of the Maloort Plains and surrounding district that is now trucked to Dunolly, rather than to the Silos at Maloort siding, because of the infinite wisdom of politicians who have closed it. The spoke person couldn't provide me with the details as that is now the responsibility of the Bureau of Statistics and that data is not available yet.
The spokes person stated that the Department would prefer to move the grain by rail, which is more efficient and cost effective, but due to a shortage of rolling stock, locomotives and drivers the majority of the grain is moved by truck. This also has an impact at the export terminal and causes trucks to be held in a holding pattern because of their excessive number and this causes delays loading the ships and is totally inefficient.
The privatisation of the rail network, the lack of track maintenance and the decline in the construction of rolling stock as well as in the case of Pacific National that holds a contract, retrenching a large number of locomotive drivers, which has contributed to the move from rail to road transport.
Some of the grain rolling stock was converted to coal rolling stock and sold to new South Wales, which again points to a complete deficiency in strategic planning and cognitive ability and capacity.
If we are to spend an exurbanite amount funding the Murray Basin Project, there is a stronger need to back it up with rolling stock infrastructure, locomotives and drivers, so that the ludicrous and inefficient means of moving and transporting the grain harvest is permanently rectified, otherwise, the Murray Basin Project expense will be for nought!
Public Relations Manager
Rail Revival Alliance Victoria
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