WEST PERTH, AUSTRALIA — The CBH Group on Feb. 17 said that it is disappointed in the Australian government’s response to the Economic and Industry Standing Committee Report on the management of Western Australia’s freight rail network.

The report had made a series of recommendations, calling for greater government oversight and involvement. It also called for the government to work to reopen closed Tier 3 lines, which were shut after they were deemed unsafe and commercially unviable.

CBH has been in an ongoing dispute with Brookfield Rail, a rail infrastructure owner and access provider in Western Australia that has a long-term lease on the network from the government.

In its response to the report, Western Australia Transport Minister Dean Nalder said the maintenance of all leased infrastructure was the responsibility of Brookfield Rail, and investment in freight railways was primarily the responsibility of the private sector.

He also said Tier 3 lines would not be reclaimed.

"Record levels of grain were successfully transported during the 2014-15 grain season despite Tier 3 rail lines not being operational, and record levels of grain were transported by rail with no apparent increase in trucks in the Perth metropolitan region as a result," Nalder said.

CBH General Manager of Operations David Capper said the report made some good, strong recommendations that would drive long term sustainable solutions for the ongoing management of the Western Australia grain freight network.

“These solutions included changes to the Railways Access Code to provide a better pathway to access for access seekers and enhanced government oversight of the lease by the PTA in holding Brookfield Rail to account for their management and ongoing maintenance of the rail network,” he said.

CBH believes the real issue at play here is not just the Tier 3’s but that the entire approach to management of the Western Australia grain rail network is unsustainable.

“We have provided both government and Brookfield Rail with several proposals to ensure a long term solution for the Tier 3 lines. All of these have been rejected,” Capper said. “We have been and always are willing to discuss the future of the Tier 3 network and work with the government and Brookfield to find a long term solution to the ongoing operation of those lines. 

“CBH will not however invest grower funds whilst Brookfield Rail’s existing approach does not provide any transparency, accountability or sustainability in relation to the performance or operation of the state’s rail network.”