A MAJOR milestone for the Werris Creek intermodal freight terminal - completed just a few months after the project was proposed - could be "the first stage of the region developing to benefit everybody".
It received its first trainload of empty containers yesterday from Sydney, ready to be packed and sent back with export plantation logs from Forestry Corporation of NSW, grown at Walcha.
It's anticipated the services will build to three or four trains a week, heralding "a new era for the Liverpool Plains shire", council general manager Ron Van Katwyk said.
"It's a great economic stimulus: We now have a freight terminal where produce can be handled and sent straight to port, minimising a lot of double handling [and] saving a huge amount of road vehicle mileage," he said.
"We now have a major enterprise that will be catalyst for so much more."
The facility, developed by the family-owned Crawfords Freightlines, will be an open-access terminal, business development manager Andrew Ray said.
This means other exporters - such as rail companies servicing the grain supply chain - will be able to take advantage of it, as will businesses or people needing items brought up to north-west NSW.
Mr Ray said the terminal had already created 25 more jobs in the company, "but that's the base, and that will continue to grow as Werris Creek grows" - which he said would "absolutely" happen.
It will also reduce freight costs for the region through rail and distribution links across "a good chunk of the state".
Gain doesn't equal loss
The $8 million facility came to fruition about six months after talks started between Crawfords and Liverpool Plains Shire Council, when "negotiations stalled" with Tamworth Regional Council, Mr Ray said.
"We decided to come to Werris Creek, and we've had excellent assistance from the [council] and the ARTC, and wonderful support from the people of Liverpool Plains and, in particular, the people of Werris Creek."
However, Werris Creek's gain did not mean Tamworth's loss, shire mayor Andrew Hope said.
"I think the region can work together to get outcomes for everybody," he said.
"I still think there's room for an intermodal in Tamworth ... I don't see it as a win for us and a loss for them: it's the first stage of the region developing to benefit everybody."
Mr Van Katwyk said the council had "moved heaven and earth to do what they could to fast-track" the project, with Crawfords founder Peter Crawford, who was "very well-organised, very deficient [and] well placed to make it happen quickly".
"The council planners need a pat on the back, too," he said.
"Donna Ausling and her team, have done an amazing job to deliver this in the time frame it's been delivered - just outstanding."