WEST PERTH, AUSTRALIA — The CBH Group and Watco WA Rail began their new partnership on March 30, running their first train from Merredin to the Kwinana Terminal, four weeks earlier than expected.

Watco WA Rail operated a leased locomotive to haul 50 of the CBH Group's new aluminum wagons carrying more than 3,500 tonnes of wheat.

CBH General Manager Operations Colin Tutt said this was a huge accomplishment for both businesses and an enormous amount of work had gone into making the first journey happen within extremely tight timeframes.

"We are delighted to see our first train moving grain on behalf of WA growers," he said.

The CBH Group has leased a small number of locomotives including two from CFCL Australia, a subsidiary of Chicago Freight Car Leasing Company, to pull its wagons while it transitions to its own full fleet for harvest 2012-13.

"Delivery schedules for all of our rolling stock are on track with our initial plans. We will have the leased locomotives running for us over the next six months to help out with the transition," said Tutt. "Leasing locomotives allows us to start using our wagons earlier than when our own locomotives are to be delivered and get the most from our new partnership with Watco WA Rail. 

"Given the record harvest just gone and the need to get better performance from rail to meet our export task, we pushed hard to get on the tracks earlier than the original May 1 commencement date. We are ready, willing and able to get out there and provide more capacity on rail."

Watco WA Rail Chief Operating Officer Jim Griffiths said the rail company has advanced the grain haul start-up by 32 days to help CBH get tonnes to port.

"The support of our number one customer, CBH, and the grain growers of WA in this key transportation initiative has been overwhelming," he said.

The CBH Group awarded its 10-year above-rail contract to Watco WA Rail in late 2010. It has also invested A$175 million in purchasing its own fleet of locomotives and wagons.

The first of the 22 locomotives is on its way to Western Australia from the U.S. with the remaining 21 not far behind, and of the 574 wagons, 128 standard gauge wagons are on WA soil.