Hope for the future of the Tier 3 rail network has suffered a setback due to a change of attitude by the government and a derailment on the York-Quairading railway line.

The Wheatbelt Railway Retention Alliance is concerned that the derailment  and a recent statement by the Minister for Transport Troy Buswell MLA refusing any government money for upgrades and reneging on an earlier assurance that all lines would remain open could mean the permanent closure of the Tier 3 network. At least one Tier 2 line carrying grain from Miling is also believed to be at risk.

The derailment at Jacobs Well, west of Mawson on September 17 has blocked the line. A locomotive and less than half the wagons it was hauling made it across before the line gave way stranding the remainder on the Quairading side of the break.

In an interview on ABC radio WRRA president, Bill Cowan, said WRRA was concerned that despite CBH and rail network lessee, Brookfield, having had almost a year they had not reached agreement about the future of the Tier 3 lines. With a near record harvest predicted for the wheatbelt it was essential all Tier 3 lines  remained open, he said.

 "There is no way road transport can cope with a record crop meaning farmers will have to cart grain further, delaying harvest and costing them between $4.00 and $7.00 a tonne extra in freight or about $15million in total in the Tier 3 areas. "It is essential that CBH and Brookfield continue efforts to reach an agreement beyond October 31 when the lines are due to close," Mr Cowan said.

If Brookfield isn't prepared to keep the Tier 3 lines open, the WRRA wants the government to take control of them and hand them over to CBH. Brookfield was receiving access payments but not spending anything on their upkeep, he said.

Quairading farmer, Greg Richards said after the derailment that there would be major road safety and logistics issues if the Tier 3 lines were closed for the coming harvest. Some grain would always go on trucks but the roads were just not made to carry all the grain.

In a statement to the ABC, CBH said it intended to continue negotiating with Brookfield with a view to reaching an agreement that would give it use of the entire rail network, including Tier 3 to transport grain. Brookfield was unavailable for comment.

Lindsay McNeill

ABOVE: Some of the derailed wagons stranded at Jacobs Well on the York-Quairading railway line with two showing visible signs of damage.BELOW: A close up of the derailment.