Graincorp’s new siding has finished construction, which will significantly reduce the time and cost of getting the grain harvest out of Coonamble, and that’s not all…
It has been a few years in the making, but Graincorp’s new rail loading facility at Coonamble should be ready in time for the 2020 harvest.
“We started a couple of years ago, prior to the drought,” said Project Manager Greg Mackintosh.
“Our cashflow was diverted during the drought but we re-started in November 2019.”
In 2018, local contractors Conex Services laid the concrete foundations and three massive grain bins were built on the site just west of Coonamble, adjacent to their existing bunker storage.
By the end of February 2020, construction of the new 750 metre rail siding was complete.
Now, at the beginning of May, the final phase of construction, comprising a new tower and rail loading structure is well underway.
The new siding means that the days of splitting trains and causing road delays on Back Gular Road are over.
“The loading will be optimised for accurate weighing so we can put exactly the right amount of grain in each wagon.”
“At 700 tonnes an hour it will load a train roughly three times faster than previously which means we get it loaded and to the port or customer faster, allowing for trains to cycle quicker,” he said.
The three 1200 tonne pre-positioning bins create the advantage of preparing product for loading before the train arrives. This allows for rail loading not to be governed by having to wait for trucks to shuttled back and forth carrying about 20 tonnes at a time.
“This took a lot of time,” Mr Mackintosh said. “Sometimes it meant we had to have additional train crews.”
“There’s no change to the local workforce but where it used to take ten hours to fill a train it now should take about three.”
“The bunkers will still get filled but now we’ll run the trucks and load the bins ready for the next train between the railway cycle.”
“It’s all about optimising the rail network,” he said.
Mr Mackintosh says any upgrade to the existing branch line,, would also make a difference.
Grain grown in the area surrounding Coonamble is generally taken to the Port Kembla to be exported or Manildra for the domestic market.
“We have built additional storage and rail capacity for possible future line upgrades that would allow for more wagons and longer trains,” Mr Mackintosh said.
“Most trains now are 40 wagons and they’d be looking at 48 wagons.”
“It makes a big difference,” he said.
Rail upgrades aside, a more efficient loading site should see immediate flow-on to local grain producers.
“The costs for growers should be less because we can move it quicker,” Mr Mackintosh said. “We’re looking forward to being able to pass those cost savings on.”
Having built six similar facilities at sites across the NSW network, even with some rain delays the construction is on track for the 2020 harvest, partly because the construction workers are working 12 hour days and have few distractions due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The six-man crew will be based in Coonamble for some months yet and will be joined by electrical and automation specialists who will do all the programming required for operation of the grain loading facility.
Once harvest gets going and grain starts arriving, the team will have a very short window for final commissioning before it becomes fully operational – and with an almost $7 million investment to recoup, Graincorp shares local hopes for a run of bumper harvests.