TAMWORTH’S huge rail role in the region’s emergency freighting operation could be a sign of things to come for the once- unused West Tamworth railway station.
The first of many daily trains carrying about 80 containers of backlogged wheat and chickpea shipments left the station yesterday afternoon, with some already bound for shipment to India.
It came after weeks of planning between the state government and local councils to move the Narrabri district’s perishable commodities, which were put behind schedule following Boggabri’s Coxs Creek Bridge derailment and subsequent closure of the rail line.
An industry estimate indicated, for grains alone, that nearly $12.5 million would be lost each week until the rail line was open.
Where the rail has failed, trucks have picked up the extra grains and pulses, with about 20 semis and B-doubles expected to make daily round trips to West Tamworth’s
railway station to deliver the products.
The intermodal transport station will continue to be one of the busiest transport hubs in the whole New England and North West as it forwards the freight to the coast.
The man in charge of the enormous emergency operation, NSW Transport’s Freight and Regional Development coordinator Tony Gausden said the Tamworth station was more than capable of handling the task.
Mr Gausden and his team put the strategy together, to get the containers to Sydney’s Port Botany, operated by Qube Logistics.
The operation is expected to continue right up until Christmas when the Boggabri rail track is repaired and reopened.
About 80 containers on the back of trucks travelling along the Kamilaroi Highway from Narrabri are expected to arrive at the station each couple of days.
Gunnedah mayor Owen Hasler was also present at yesterday’s maiden train voyage, to oversee the role his council played in the operation.
“It’s a short term solution for what could have been a very serious problem,” he said.
Mr Gausden expects about 600 carriages to be loaded with containers and cleared within the next 10 days.
He said the station could one day be a permanent rail transport site between the region and ports.
“It’s a perfect spot, sitting idle and central,” Mr Gausden said.
“This operation is a perfect example of how road and rail can work together.”
Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson confirmed he had been in talks with Tamworth Regional mayor Col Murray and the state government to make the West Tamworth permanent rail operations a reality.
“Tamworth’s rail capabilities really haven’t been utilised,” Mr Anderson said.
He said the next step would be gauging community support for the idea, to work out who and how many would use the Tamworth facility.
“Does our community want to use rail – We stand ready to assist,” Mr Anderson said.