Smoother running for freight
Grain handlers have reported improvements to freight rail service this harvest season, compared with the same period last year.
A V/Line spokesperson said there had been no reports of cancellations from freight operators due to the heat.
Freight trains were slowed down when temperatures reached 36 degrees.
Speed restrictions were enforced on the freight network between midday and 8pm, when rails expanded in the heat.
Grain handler GrainCorp agreed the service had been much more reliable this season.
A spokesperson said the company’s priority was to move as much grain it could by rail, as every 40-wagon train took 45 trucks off local roads.
“While total harvest tonnages are down on last year, there is still strong demand to move the grain towards port,” the spokesperson said.
“There have been some hot days - however there has been minimal impact from the heat restrictions, which is a direct result of the changes to the restrictions from last year.”
Late last year, V/Line eased the speed restrictions imposed on the freight network during times of extreme heat, allowing for more freight trains to run during summer.
Quambatook grain grower and Victorian Farmers Federation vice-president Brett Hosking said lower volumes, compared with last year, had helped.
“I don’t think the sales have been made, but there has been a call out for grain in late January and early February,” Mr Hosking said.
“February is traditionally the hottest month, so no doubt there will be some disruption – or the season won’t be doing what it should.
“I think a lot of maintenance has been done to make sure tracks are fit for the task.”
Rail Freight Advisory Council chair Peter Tuohey said one of the biggest issues raised at council meetings was communications between V/Line and the train operators.
Train operators wanted “plenty of warning”, so they could make adjustments to their schedules.
“I would say issues that are brought forward are being progressed and not being put on the back burner,” Mr Tuohey said.
“It’s certainly a good idea putting all the track operators in the room with V/Line.
“The minister’s direction is to make sure this is an advisory committee, to V/Line, to make sure things get done - she has instructed V/Line to listen to the advisory council and get on and do it.”