MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA — The Emerald Group’s first grain train has entered service, hauling grain from southern New South Wales to Melbourne, the company said on Feb. 24.

Carrying around 1,500 tonnes of wheat each trip, the train operated for Emerald by El Zorro will be operating from the Australian Bulk Alliance (ABA) facility at until the end of February. It moves on to the ABA site at Coolamon during March, again to haul to ABA’s Melbourne Port Terminal. Two more trains will begin operating for Emerald later in 2012.

Emerald Managing Director Mick Cattanach said the first train marked important progress in Emerald’s move to a more integrated supply chain and greater service for its grower customers.

“We’re very excited with our move into trains because we see them as a vital part of the move from where grain is produced to the export port,” Cattanach said. “Supply chain costs are the biggest single deduction from grower returns, so efficiency, effectiveness and cost competitiveness are what we are pursuing to improve this situation.

“We use road transport extensively and it serves us well, however when it comes to moving large tonnages over long distances from country storage to port terminal, rail is the clear preference.

“When the full fleet is in service in New South Wales and Victoria we will have two trains on standard gauge and one on broad gauge lines, with anticipated annual capacity in excess of 500,000 tonnes.

“In a year when big crops have meant the export task is massive, this additional capacity is hugely important to clearing grain from country storages and meeting shipping schedules in a cost-effective manner.”