In 2012, following a A$175 million investment, the company launched a rail fleet that included 22 locomotives and 574 purpose-built wagons. It was the first dedicated new grain rail fleet to arrive in Western Australia in more than 30 years.
On June 15, 2012, the first train ran from Kwinana to Hyden, and in 2014 another three locomotives were added to the fleet.
The rail fleet has since moved more than 35 million tonnes with an expectation to hit 40 million tonnes next month.
Andrew Crane, chief executive officer of the CBH Group, said the investment was a strategic decision for CBH Group, which had brought significant material benefits for Western Australian growers.
“Our investment was driven by a singular focus to continue lowering supply chain costs for Western Australian growers,” Crane said. “It is always pleasing when a business case delivers to and exceeds the benefits envisaged. In the first year of operation CBH reduced rail costs by 7%. These reductions have continued with rail freight rates now sitting around 20% lower than 2011 rates, in real terms.
“This is a great result and we are continually looking at ways we can continue to keep the Western Australian supply chain competitive against alternative international origins.”
CBH Group awarded Watco WA Rail the 10-year contract for above-rail operations. The first train to run under this contract utilized leased locomotives and ran from Merredin to the Kwinana Grain Terminal on March 30, 2012.
Watco now operates two narrow gauge trains into Geraldton, two narrow gauge trains into Albany and four narrow gauge and two standard trains into Kwinana.
In March 2017, a record 964,832 tonnes were moved via rail – the most ever moved during a monthly period.