Speed restrictions, when the temperature reached 33 degrees, where initially imposed on freight services on the Swan Hill, Echuca, Shepparton, Murrayville, Mildura and Dimboola-Yaapeet lines.
The restrictions were later lifted to 36 degrees, in line with services on Manangatang and Sea Lake lines.
V/Line chief executive James Pinder told a scheduled Victorian parliamentary inquiry hearing, Monash University’s Institute of Railway Technology had been asked to do the review.
“We have had lots of correspondence, about our heat speed restrictions, and we still feel - given the circumstances and what we have achieved - we have been doing the right things,” Mr Pinder said, after the hearing.
“As with all reputable organisations, occasionally you will ask somebody in, to carry out an independent review of where we have got to. We, off our own bat – nobody has asked us to do this – have asked Monash to come and do that.”
The work, on rail engineering in relation to heat restrictions, was likely to be concluded within a few months.
Mr Pinder said he hoped the review would vindicate V/Line’s position.
“If there are other suggestions contained within the review, as to how we can improve, we would welcome that too.
“Initially, we are hoping and expecting that Monash will say our response, in the broad context, was the right thing to do – we will have to let them reach that conclusion themselves; they certainly won’t be told to reach that conclusion, by me.”
Rail Freight Alliance (RFA) executive officer Reid Mather said his organisation had called for a peer review of the V/Line operating standards, similar to the one done over the V/Locity wheel wear issue.
He gave cautious approval to the review, which he said the RFA claimed credit for
“Words don’t meean much, until you do somethinmg, that’s what are waiting to see – but we welcome it,” Mr Mather said.
The RFA sent a letter to Premier Daniel Andrews, before Easter, signed by 22 councils, calling for an urgent, independent review of the standards.
“For the first time in our state we have freight loaded, ready for export, but unable to move,” the letter said.
“V/Line’s actions have directly reduced the profitability of rural communities and have had a significant impact on the state’s agriculture productivity.”
Mr Mather said he hoped a review, similar to that on the wheel wear issue, would shed further light on the matter.
“It changed everything,” Mr Mather said.
“If you can have a decent peer review done, and its not meddled with, it would suggest we need to put even more money into the rail system,” he said.
Another issue was the late notice, of the introduction of the restrictions.
“What happened, on the eve of the biggest harvest in Victoria, crippled the state.”
Mr Pinder acknowledged communication could have been improved, prior to imposing the restrictions.
Grain grower Brett Hosking said a lot of the challenges primary producers were facing went beyond heat.
“There’s a long history of maintenance below what’s required to keep the line operating – because some speed restrictions are occurring, regardless of the temperature.”
He said he found the safety argument – not running trains for fear of derailments – “bizarre.”
“Our railway lines might be safer, but the roads become a whole lot more dangerous – the reality is, the grain has to be put somewhere and moved to its destination.”
Mr Hosking said while truck drivers were generally very careful, more trucks on the roads increased the safety risk.
Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) grains group president Ross Johns said the rail infrastructure primary producers were using was old and showed a distinct lack of investment, over a long time.
“It’s no longer fit to use.”
He also welcomed the study.
“I am sure more information is better, to make a decision – but what we do know is there have been heat restrictions and restrictions on freight movements on those lines.
“Today, we are probably behind in exporting the grain which would normally be moved by rail, that grain is being moved by road.”