Railway station upgrades derail December harvest

There is lots happening in the small town of Murchison East, just outside of Shepparton.

Key points:Murchison East railway upgrades will close a major road from December 1 to 10December is peak harvest time for grain growers in the area GrainCorp site access will be cut off during closures 

Harvest is a few weeks away, with up to 150,000 tonnes of wheat and canola expected to arrive at the GrainCorp site this season.

There is also long-awaited work happening at the railway station as part of the Shepparton line upgrade that will allow velocity trains to travel to the area for the first time. 

The problem is they will both be happening at the same time and the GrainCorp site sits right next to the railway station. 

Mark Havryluk, the director of Region Rail Revival, said the Murchison/Violet Town Road would be closed at the level crossing from December 1 to December 10. 

"That's going to enable construction of the crossing loop to progress, and our crews will be working around the clock so they can open that level crossing as soon as possible," Mr Havryluk said. 

"We're continuing to work with VicRoads, GrainCorp and local council to identify suitable solutions.

"Local detour routes will enable access to the GrainCorp site for most vehicles, but a specific solution will be required for B-double trucks, and we are still looking at what that might entail.

Murchison East railway under construction
The Murchison East crossing loop is being extended as part of the Shepparton line upgrade.(ABC Rural: Annie Brown)

Can growers delay the harvest?

GrainCorp's senior supply chain manager for the south, Craig Cochrane, said they had been in discussions with Rail Projects Victoria since July about the issue.

"They actually asked if we could get the growers to delay the harvest," Mr Cochrane said. 

"That really does show that they hadn't taken into account how important that time of year is for the local area."

Rail Projects Victoria have said there would be a 4-kilometre alternative route for smaller vehicles coming from the west and north to access the GrainCorp site during the closures.

However, large vehicles such as B-double trucks will need to access the site via Mooroopna or Shepparton. 

A sign infront of grain silos
GrainCorp upgraded their Murchison East site with an additional 80,000 tones of storage earlier this year. (ABC Rural: Annie Brown)

Mr Cochrane said GrainCorp would continue to push for B-double trucks to be able to use the shorter diversion route as the alternative would add at least an hour to travel time, which will cost growers money. 

"The B-doubles will have to take a 38-km diversion route and that will have a big impact," he said. 

"They want to get back to their farm as fast as they can; they will have to pay more for their road freight and if they have to stop, that burns dollars immediately for them."

Earlier this year, GrainCorp upgraded its Murchison East site by adding 80,000 tonnes of extra storage, and this harvest they are expecting to fill the site with somewhere in between 130,000 to 150,000 tonnes of grain.

close up of yellow canola flower just opening from its multi-bud head
Australian canola growers are set for a strong year, with historically high prices for exports. (ABC Rural: Annie Brown)

Peak harvest in December 

Rob Brown, a farmer from Murchison, called ABC Radio to point out what impact these road closures will have on local growers. 

"It'll be right in the middle of harvest and our GrainCorp receival site right there at that intersection," Mr Brown said. 

"We're looking at starting canola harvest in late November and by the start of December we'll be into wheat harvest, so there'll be a lot of trucks every day. "

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Mr Brown said the area had changed a lot in the past decade and the road closures would have large impacts. 

"What's changed in the last 10 years is the whole area west of Murchison, around Dargalong, Tatura and Merrigum, what used to be more traditional dairy farming country is now all under winter cropping," Mr Brown said. 

"The amount of wheat and canola coming in is absolutely huge and it's going to impact a lot of people."

Posted 8 Nov 20218 Nov 2021Mon 8 Nov 2021 at 8:35pm, updated 8 Nov 20218 Nov 2021Mon 8 Nov 2021 at 9:17pmShareCopy linkFacebookTwitterArticle share optionsShare this onFacebookTwitterLinkedInSend this byEmailMessengerCopy linkWhatsApp


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