The West

The State's peak farm lobby group has backed CBH's plan to take over the running of grain freight lines in the heart of the Wheatbelt.

WAFarmers president and transport spokesman Dale Park said yesterday that Brookfield Rail had not done enough to justify holding on to its long-term lease over the Tier 3 lines, which are set to close on October 31 and be placed into care and maintenance.

Mr Park said he was confident CBH could operate the lines through experienced US company Watco, which took over the running of CBH's new $175 million fleet of locomotives and wagons last year.

Mr Park said a recent Auditor-General's report showed the Public Transport Authority had been "asleep at the wheel" in relation to the Brookfield lease and the operation of the Tier 3 lines.

In his assessment of the first 12 years of the 49-year lease of the State's rail freight network, Auditor-General Colin Murphy said the Tier 3 lines required substantial State Government funding to stay open. He said the lines were degraded and considered safe only when trains operated with speed restrictions or, in the case of some marginal lines, at night when the tracks were cooler and more stable.

CBH's bold bid to take over the running of the lines, revealed exclusively in _The Weekend West _, requires $30 million in upfront Government funding. The co-operative said it would operate the lines and pay for all maintenance over the next 10 years.

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