Cattle train promise

Cattle train promise

QRN livestock trains

QRN livestock trains


AURIZON says it will run its livestock trains with less than full bookings to demonstrate its "strong support" to the agriculture industry.


AURIZON says it will run its livestock trains with less than full bookings to demonstrate its "strong support" to the agriculture industry.

This is after it was called out for providing only three trains in less than three years from Quilpie.

Last month, regional mayors in the south-west raised concerns that the company was being paid by the state government to provide 325 livestock rail services annually throughout regional Queensland and not delivering.

The current contract allows cattle to be transported to only two meat processors - Australia and JBS Australia - leaving all other players out in the cold.

In addition, the entire train has to be booked, producers cannot share the transport and a number of people who have tried to book were told the service was unavailable.

A spokeswoman from Aurizon responded to the criticism, saying the majority of the funded services reflected the demand in the north-west and central western regions.

"In south Queensland, less than 3 per cent of the scheduled services have been utilised by industry over the past three years," she said.

Aurizon was working with industry to generate more demand for the rail services and had committed to 27 services from May to November, she added.

"While it is important to have full train bookings from a commercial perspective, Aurizon will run services this season with less than a full train booking to demonstrate our strong ongoing support for the agricultural industry."

She said the company was in active discussion with a number of agricultural customers to increase freight on rail, including Oakey Beef Exports, and Aurison saw an opportunity for growth in this area.

Meanwhile, the Livestock Transport Services Contract, set up during the Bligh administration as part of the sell-off of Queensland Rail, expires at the end of the year.

The Mayor of Paroo and chairman of Southwest RED, Cr Lindsay Godfrey, is concerned.

"Time is rapidly running out before the expiry of the current contract and it is our fear the contract will be rolled over in its current state, to the detriment of regional Queensland," he said.

Everyone west of Toowoomba was aware the state-owned rail network could be better utilised.

"Collectively, our regions would like to see the current livestock transport contract provide greater value for money, not only for end-users of the freight service but also to those who fill the government purse in the first place, the Queensland taxpayers," Cr Godfrey said.

"One way to ensure greater value is to increase competition and allow more meat processors to be able to receive cattle."

The current contract limits this to two, and a spokesperson from the Office of the Deputy Premier's office told Queensland Country Life that JBS's Dinmore plant, and Teys Beenleigh and Rockhampton plants, were the only abattoirs with fit-for-purpose rail infrastructure to safely receive rail livestock transport from producers.

The spokesperson said other abattoirs - including Oakey Abattoir - could participate in the transport service contract if they reached an appropriate commercial agreement on rail siding infrastructure to safely receive cattle trains.

The department was currently reviewing the services beyond the current contract and more details would be made available when the budget was handed down in July, she said.

Queensland Country Life put it to the department that the Queensland government, which owns the rail infrastructure and maintains it, has allowed many rail sidings to deteriorate - including those at Oakey Abattoir and Bothwicks in Mackay. As a result, demand has fallen. Would the government consider investing in these upgrades and allowing better use of the rail system?

The question was not answered.

Meanwhile, the councils of Murweh, Quilpie, Paroo, Thargomindah, Maranoa and St George are calling for the government to include Oakey Beef Exports as part of the livestock transport services contract so graziers in these districts can have increased competition.

"We want to be able to have the choice to send our beef to Oakey or on to Dinmore or wherever," Cr Godfrey said.

"We understand the upgrades to the Oakey sidings will be minimal, given the infrastructure is already there, right outside the Oakey Beef facility.

"All that is missing in this scenario is a dose of political will."

Cr Godrey said it beggared belief to think that only two processors were allowed the opportunity to transport cattle via trains.

"I understand Aurizon was paid for 325 cattle freight services last year and delivered about 160 and this is not reflective of the current market.

"There is obvious room for improvement," he said.

In Mackay, Thomas Borthwick and Sons general manager John Roediger said there was a great opportunity to employ more locals at its processing plant if there were better access to cattle.

"And to do that, we need to be able to access the rail network," he said.

"It is unbelievable to me that currently only two processors in Queensland have the option of using the rail network.

"It is not fair.

"It is not fair for competition and it is not fair to beef growers in the west."

Mr Roediger said he would be encouraging the state government to ensure the business had the opportunity to help western graziers sell beef and help Mackay grow jobs.


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