Cattle freight contract awarded to Watco

Watco committed to establishing a depot in Warwick in 2018, commencing grain hailing in 2020. FRONT PICTURE: Southern Downs Mayor Vic Pennisi, Agriculture Minister Mark Furner, and Watco East West director Chris Hood at Warwick. Picture: JESS BAKER

By Jess Baker

Watco East West, jointly owned by Watco Australia and East West Road and Rail, has been announced the operator of cattle rail transport services in south west and central west Queensland.

Agriculture Minister Mark Furner visited Watco HQ at Warwick on Tuesday 7 September to announce the contract with the Department of Transport and Main Roads, which will span from 2022 to 2028.

He said the partnership will help to ensure efficient logistical arrangements to support the cattle supply chain.

“Agriculture is an essential industry in Queensland and a vital part of Queensland’s Covid-19 Economic Recovery Plan,” Mr Furner said.

“Partnerships like this one are a key strategic strength of the agricultural industry in Queensland, supporting thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in exports.”

Watco East West director Chris Hood said he expected the contract would create about 30 local jobs.

“The communities where we will be operating will benefit from this government decision and we will work collaboratively with the cattle industry and the road freight industry to ensure system coordination,” Mr Hood said.

He said Watco East West was determined to deliver better outcomes for processors and cattle producers by integrating the two services with road use.

“Ultimately, Watco East West will be concentrating on improved communications and better coordination between road and rail,” he said.

“Our aim will be to attract cattle into loading points as far north as Winton and Clermont, as well as building greater volumes from the north to the west and into the Morven Freight Hub.”

The new contract will see the rail freight company managing their second service in Queensland, after it secured the south west line 12 months ago.

Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey said supporting cattle producers and Queensland’s beef industry was an integral part of the state government’s Covid-19 economic recovery plan.

“Transporting cattle on rail reduces wear and tear on our roads and reduces traffic congestion, so a key aim of this contract is to increase the amount of cattle transported by rail services,” Mr Bailey said.

“Queensland has the largest and some of the best beef herds in Australia, and the beef industry is a significant contributor to the state’s economy.

“More than 10,000 Queenslanders work in the beef industry, and cattle transport is a critical part of its successful operation in a state as large as ours.

“By supporting businesses like Watco to help manage the freight task, we’re sharing the load between road and rail.”

Mr Furner said the decision to award Watco East West the contract followed a competitive procurement process.

Approximately 6000 cattle are expected to be transported each week by the company once the contract begins on 1 January next year.