The Mallee’s next grain harvest will be transported entirely by road, as the railway lines from Pinnaroo and Loxton to Tailem Bend will close by August.
After 12 months of uncertainty, grain handling company Viterra announced on Tuesday it would no longer use the lines to transport grain after July 31.
Group commercial manager Andrew Hannon said road transport was more cost effective than rail, and that competing on cost was the best way for local growers to reach national and international markets. However, he was quick to reassure growers of their value to the company.
“The Mallee is a key region for grain production and an important, strategic part of the Viterra business,” he said.
“We want to assure Mallee growers that all the services we provide at our Mallee receival sites will be maintained with our transition to road, or a road and rail combination, for grain being moved to port.”
Opposition Agriculture Spokesman Adrian Pederick said the decision was unfortunate.
“After servicing the Mallee for over a century, it is disappointing to see that the last commercial user of the line will be transferring to road transport to move grain from the Mallee region as of August 1,” he said.
“It is disheartening that this looks like the end of the line.”
Mr Pederick called on the State Government to seal more road shoulders and install more overtaking lanes on the Mallee Highway to counterbalance the expected increase in truck traffic, a call echoed by Member for Chaffey Tim Whetstone.
“The Mallee and Karoonda highways are already under increasing pressure from a lack of road maintenance and without rail, hundreds of extra weekly truckloads of produce will take these routes,” Mr Whetstone said.
“While there has been some minor patching on roads in that area, the State Government has largely left both Mallee highways in a state of disrepair and these major freight roads will not cope with extra movements.
“Safety of all road users along these major routes must be the priority.”
The State Government is in the process of sealing road shoulders along 20 kilometres of the highway between Murray Bridge and Karoonda at a cost of $2.3 million.
A 2014 Regional Development Australia report recommended a freight transfer terminal be built at Tailem Bend, so grain could be loaded onto trains there, if the Pinnaroo and Loxton lines closed.
In February, Mr Whetstone also foreshadowed a discussion about whether road trains would have to be allowed on the highways to compensate for the loss of the railways.