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Vic, The end of the line as operator dumps rail freight company
BY ALEX JOHNSON
Warrnambool, 13/10/2008 4:00:00 AM
THE company carrying freight on the Warrnambool-Melbourne rail line has been dumped only seven months after it started work.
Warrnambool's rail freight terminal operator has revealed the Melbourne-based carrier, El Zorro, had failed to meet its expectations.
Westvic Container Handling managing director Warrick Loft said that, despite his patience with the relatively small operator, El Zorro "was going nowhere".
El Zorro business manager Geoff Tighe voiced his disappointment at Mr Loft's comments. He said Mr Loft had told El Zorro's operations manager the decision to switch providers was not related to El Zorro's performance but to logistical issues in Melbourne.
In March El Zorro stepped into the void left by Pacific National, three months after the country's largest rail freight operator announced plans to pull out of Victoria because of a poor grain harvest.
At the time Mr Loft hailed the El Zorro deal as "the start of a whole new era" for freight in the south-west.
On Thursday, however, El Zorro was given 10 days' notice and is expected to carry its final load to Melbourne on October 20.
The Warrnambool line's new operator will be Patrick, Australia's largest freight and stevedoring company with links to Pacific National and, unlike El Zorro, direct rail access to Melbourne docks.
Mr Loft aired his disappointment over El Zorro on its first day on the job, after seeing a rusty assortment of wagons roll into his yard, but vowed to "give them a go".
"The service levels (under El Zorro) were not consistent with the expectations of this company," he said last week.
"The original agreement I had with them, because they were new into the system, they needed to prove their worth before we could enter into a long-term arrangement.
"They have been unable to do that, which is disappointing."
Mr Tighe said his company had "bent over backwards" to provide Mr Loft with the best possible service.
When V/Line closed the track for maintenance, El Zorro had arranged trucks to send containers between Warrnambool and Melbourne free of charge, Mr Tighe said.
"We have tried to make it a viable service and hoped that he (Mr Loft) might be able to grow it," he said.
The blow for El Zorro came only weeks after the company started carrying mineral sands between Portland and Melbourne.
Fancy sending an 1100 south and putting mags on it Mick?