WEST PERTH, AUSTRALIA —  The first of CBH's fleet of 574 wagons arrived in February last year, followed in May by the first of 22 purpose built locomotives, and now the transition to a brand new rail fleet, managed by a new operator, is complete, CBH said on Jan. 11.
Logistics Manager Andrew Mencshelyi said the final two locomotives arrived in Western Australia the first week of January and the other 20 locomotives are on the track. Meanwhile, all 574 new wagons have been delivered, commissioned and are on the track.
"Our new locomotives and wagons are more efficient than those used to move grain previously which means more tonnes are being carted in each train trip to port and as a result we were able to reduce freight rate estimates for the 2012-13 harvest by seven percent," he said. "We have been conservative in setting freight rates this year given it's our first year in rail and we need to ensure all transition costs are covered but a reduction in rail rates by an average of seven percent is certainly still a significant saving for growers."
Mencshelyi said to date CBH and Watco had moved more than 3 million tonnes of grain on rail since the onset of their new agreement, which began six weeks ahead of the scheduled May 1, 2012 date.
"Up to 25,000 tonnes of grain is now being moved on rail per day," he said. "We want to build that to 25,000 to 30,000 tonnes and reach our target of 70% plus of grain being moved by rail from 2013 onwards.
"This has been an enormously challenging transition given that within the first few months of the locomotives arriving we came up against software glitches, overlap with the existing provider, challenges deploying the new equipment, repair and maintenance and all in a year with a record crop.
"None of the challenges have come unexpected with such a major project and most importantly it is about learning from these early experiences with patience and support.
Despite the challenges of the rail transition, Mencshelyi said that CBH had shipped a record 12.7 million tonnes from Western Australia in the year ending Oct. 31, 2012, including breaking shipping records for five individual months.
"This transition has coincided with the task of moving Western Australia's biggest ever grain harvest to port and everyone involved in coordinating and executing our road and rail freight task this year deserves credit for this achievement," he said.