Region’s railway line could be at risk

THE future of Eyre Peninsula’s railway line is something the Port Lincoln Times has been keen to cover but it has been a real struggle to get past the PR to get accurate and genuine information on the issue.

Last year when Viterra signed a 12-month contract with Gensee and Wyoming (GWA) – the rail freight operator – it provided a bit of breathing space but with that contract expiring in March time is running out. 

We have it on good authority that there will be no new contract between GWA and Viterra and part, if not all, of the Eyre Peninsula railway line will be closed. 

Some of this information has come from people who could soon lose their jobs and, if the railway line closes, there will be many. 

The fact is that the railway line is old and needs replacing but no one seems to want to stump up the cash to do it.

With only months left on their contract with Viterra it won’t be GWA and if Viterra have no interest in using the line then the state government won’t fix it up.

But if the railway line closes in March, it is an almost certainty that it will never reopen – it will fall into disrepair the way lines have in other parts of the state.

When we approached Viterra to ask where they stood on the future of rail freight on EP, their response was that they were working with the government, GWA and stakeholders “to assist the Deparment of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure in producing the Eyre Peninsula Freight Study” and that they were working to ensure grain is moved to port in the most efficient manner “now and in the future”. 

The freight study mentioned above was to investigate options for the upgrading of the rail network and the final report of that study was due in the second quarter of this year and is still yet to be published.

No railway line would mean thousands more truck trips per year which would, without a doubt, wear down the already shocking condition of most of the region’s roads. 

It seems like anyone who has any power to get a straight answer out of DPTI or Viterra is sitting on their hands waiting for a study that might not see the light of day until it’s too late.

If the railway line closes yes, there will be more trucks on the road and yes, that will have implications on road infrastructure and for drivers but it will also mean the loss of an industry and employment which is something this region can ill-afford.