Dookie grain receival rail call

Road, rail mode shift would be helped by fixing Dookie spur line

UPDATED
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RAIL CALL: Grain being offloaded at the GrainCorp's Dookie receival facility.

RAIL CALL: Grain being offloaded at the GrainCorp's Dookie receival facility.

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Dookie disconnected from rail network, so grain, oilseeds go by road.

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With several GrainCorp sites recording their best receivals ever, there's been a call for the Department of Transport to reinstate the service to the Dookie site, in the Goulburn Valley.

The line, which runs for about 26 kilometres from Shepparton, is in disrepair, having been shut for more than 15 years.

GrainCorp received a record 135,000 tonnes of grain, this year, compared with the previous best figure of 113,000 in 2010/11.

All grain and oilseed will be transported in, and out, of Dookie by road.

Local grower Steve Ludeman, says grain and oilseed were going into Dookie by road and would also go out the same way.

"I'd say 95 per cent of growers would be keen to get it fixed, for sure, just to keep the trucks off the road," Mr Ludeman said.

"That will continue to be the case, while the rail line continues to be closed and GrainCorp don't improve their facilities a bit more."

He said he'd like to see Dookie upgraded, to improve efficiencies there.

"It's not necessarily just the railway, people can't afford to be sitting around in queues, for two or three hours, as harvest time."

Grain and oilseed from Dookie was going to Melbourne and Numurkah, with a percentage to local feed mills.

A GrainCorp spokeswoman said while the company supported the re-opening of the Dookie line, most of the grain from the region went directly into the domestic market, across the Goulburn Valley.

"We take a holistic approach in working with all stakeholders, including the Victorian Government, to ensure the entire rail network supports our grower customers across the state," the spokeswoman said.

"While we're supportive of funding for 'special projects', these instances are largely addressing what should have been a basic upkeep of the lines over the last 20 years, like the works that have taken place on the Rainbow and Manangatang lines.

"As passenger volumes increase over time, rail providers require more capacity to keep freight trains running on the shared network; until this happens, exporters will be forced to rely on road haulage to meet demand."

Read more:

Road winning out over rail, for record grain harvest

Rail movements

Meanwhile, the Bendigo rail line has been carrying about 20000 tonnes of grain a month, although receival depots at Elmore, Deniliquin, Mitiamo, Piangil and Woorinen are believed to have collected more than one million tonnes.

PN has been running up to 38 train sets a week, carrying around 2000 tonnes of grain, from GrainCorp's Manangatang receival site.

Most of GrainCorp's receivals go to Portland or Geelong.

But the condition of the Manangatang line has resulted in several temporary speed restrictions. The Manangatang grain receival depot took in 70,000 tonnes of grain, this season.

Work was done on the line in 2019/20, to bring it back to 40km/h, after dropping back to 25km/h, due to its degraded state.

Trains on the section between Lalbert to Quambatook are currently 20-25 km/h, while Quambatook to Korong Vale they are limited to 30 km/h.

On much of the line north of Boort, trains are restricted to 40km/h, while the section from Boort to Lalbert is being repaired and speeds are restricted to 20-30kph.

Between Hopetoun to Warracknabeal speeds are restricted to 40 km/h.

Between Wycheproof and Sea Lake, the line speed is 55km/h, although there are several 15-40 km/h restrictions on 8 km of track.

Work has begun on replacing sleepers on the 141-kilometre Korong Vale-Sea Lake line.

It's believed it's been funded with the last remaining money, set aside for the MBRP.

Trains will be restricted to 25 kilometres an hour on a 63 kilometre section of the Rainbow to Dimboola line until June 2022, due to decayed and damaged sleepers, according to V/Line's Weekly Operational Notice.

Total harvest

Of the harvest railed since November 1, Geelong has received 276,000 tonnes, Melbourne 133,000t, Portland 60,000t and 20,000t has gone interstate.

Since then, until last week, 190,000t had gone on broad gauge, while 300,000 went by standard gauge.

Meanwhile, a state government spokeswoman has said no decision has yet been made on matching the $5 million, put up by the commonwealth, for planning to deliver a full standardised network.

Last year, federal Transport Minister Michael McCormack said he'd be asking the Victorian government to "come up with a robust plan for full standardisation" of the MBRP.

The state government spokeswoman said that would be part of budget deliberations.

She reiterated the technical problems, raised as part of the revised business case, for the project.

"The review found that further standardisation would require close to $1 billion in extra investment, extensive construction in the Ballarat corridor and disruptions to Ballarat line passenger services and is unlikely to deliver expected key benefits to the freight industry now and into the future," the spokeswoman said.

Victorian Farmers Federation grains group president Ash Fraser said there was still an enormous amount of work to be done, on rail lines across the entire state.

"The sooner it gets underway, the better we will be - but you would have to be optimistic, to think everything is going to be fixed, by next harvest.

"I get a distinct impression the government doesn't have an appetite to do too much for regional Victoria, at all.

"Any opportunity the government has to walk away from something, that is the indication they give."

Mr Fraser said he struggled with claims the revised business case showed standardisation wasn't cost-effective when the government was building the Melbourne rail loop with no business case.

"There is a real double standard, on spending on metro and spending in the regions."

The DoT has been contacted for comment.

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