Rail and road combine for cattle supply chains


The Morven Freight Hub in Queensland is helping producers and processors by getting more cattle on rail. 

When establishing a freight hub for a dedicated livestock rail network, location is king. Multi-million-dollar Morven Freight Hub runs through the Queensland Rail Network at the junction of the Landsborough and Warrego Highways. By combining the rail network with access to these major highways, producers now have another logistics option to get more livestock to the south-east of the state. 

A cooperative effort between government and industry helped create the facility. Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, Agriculture Minister David Littleproud and Queensland Transport Minister Mark Bailey contributed opening the intersection in November last year.

Rail service company Watco East West are contracted by the Queensland government to operate cattle train services in southwest Queensland.

Chris Hood, Watco East West Director, says an advantage of rail is avoiding busy highway networks and degrading roads from Roma all the way through to Brisbane. 

“You’re using a big triple road train out in those far regional areas,” says Chris. “Then you’re using rail in the last leg of the works where all your traffic problems are and where you want to get your trucks off the road.”

Cattle trains can take 45 decks of livestock in one trip.

Liveweight scales at the Hub are an attraction for producers who wouldn’t normally rail their cattle. Chris says very few properties have weighing facilities, but just weighing the cattle before their departure isn’t the only benefit. 

“It also gives them an opportunity to transact cattle out of those areas because you’ve got useful data where you can say, for example, this cow weighs 400 kilograms,” says Chris. “Sometimes the meatworks will say we’ll buy this cattle off you on the scales out at Morven, which puts a few dollars back in the producer’s pockets.”

Chris is excited about Watco East West’s ambitions to extend the use of the Hub to industrial freight. He says trains from the more populated areas of Brisbane carrying pipes, cement and chemicals could be redistributed from Morven.

“It could be a distribution yard, it could be an intermodal container hub. It could be anything because there are the fundamentals of rail frontage, land area and a really good road distribution network into areas that are large consumers of freight,” he says. 

The freight project is part of an agreement with the Murweh Shire Council. Shaun ‘Zoro’ Radnedge, Murweh Shire Mayor, says the multi-million-dollar facility’s importance to small regional communities, belted by years of drought, can’t be understated. 

“It gives those Northern and Western cattle producers an opportunity to get their cattle onto the supply chain of that southeast corner,” says Shaun.

Shaun believes having rail as an extra transport option will continue to lighten the load for supply chains previously reliant on road networks. 

“I look forward to seeing how the Morven Freight Hub will support the broader economic development of the South West,” he says. “I think road and rail can work hand in hand.” 

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