El Zorro (railway)
|Defunct||4 June 2013|
|Area served||New South Wales
|Key people||Ray Evans (Managing Director)|
|Employees||approx. 180 at peak|
El Zorro (legal name El Zorro Transport Pty Ltd) was an Australian railway operator hauling freight and intrastructure trains in Victoria and New South Wales that ceased trading on 4 June 2013. It was a private company founded in 1999 by Ray Evans who has a taste for things Spanish, El Zorro being Spanish for the fox. At the time of liquidation, the company had two shareholders: director Ray Evans, and ex-director Lisa Trezise. Geoff Tighe, a co-founder and past shareholder and director, was formerly chief executive of Great Northern Rail Services, a now defunct operator which provided locomotives and crews to other operators in Victoria until November 2002.
In 2004 the company won a contract from QR National subsidiary Interail, to provide crews for their Brisbane to Melbourne rail service on the southern leg from Junee to Melbourne. Today the company is an accredited rail operator in Victoria and New South Wales operating freight and infrastructure trains.
In December 2007 when Pacific National announced that it was scaling back its Victorian operations, El Zorro who were the only other grain operator, admitted that the logistics of moving an entire Victorian wheat harvest were beyond its capabilities at the time, its fleet comprissing of only two T Class locomotives and 80 wagons. The first El Zorro grain train was operated on the standard gauge on 11 December 2007, and the first broad gauge grain train on 18 January 2008.
In April 2008 El Zorro took over the Westvic Container Handling Warrnambool to Melbourne container service from Pacific National before it returned to Pacific National in October 2008. Problems El Zorro faced in running the service included a lack of broad gauge locomotives and container wagons, the removal of crossing loops on the line by infrastructure manager V/Line, which resulted in late running and delays, and the inability to carry high cube containers though the Geelong tunnel due to a lack of low platform wagons.
In August 2008 AWB Limited awarded El Zorro a new five year contract to operate four trains moving grain throughout Victoria and New South Wales. To operate these 84 WGBY standard gauge wagons were purchased by AWB Limited from China for this work and delivered in 2009. These were followed by 90 WGSY wagons in 2010 for both standard and broad gauge use.
In September 2008 miner Iluka Resources awarded El Zorro a contract to haul containerised mineral sands from Portland to Melbourne. Trains would run three times a week carrying 40 containers making up a load of 1,000 tonnes.
In October 2008 the company operated a trial service to the Gippsland Intermodal Freight Terminal outside Morwell, in what was the first train to use the facility in almost three years. El Zorro was said to be in talks with local companies who wanted to utilise rail freight.
In May 2013 Consolidated Rail Leasing filed a petition in the Supreme Court of New South Wales to wind up El Zorro. El Zorro director Ray Evans said cash flow problems had been caused by agricultural products distributor Cargill refusing to pay his company for work carried out during the previous four weeks. Evans said that although El Zorro owed Cargill $2 million as a long-term debt, there was a repayment plan in place, which was not being fulfilled. Due to this Cargill had recently stopped all payments to the rail operator.
Michael Vines president of the Victorian Goldfields Railway, which leased a locomotive to El Zorro through the Seymour Railway Heritage Centre, said in a newsletter that his organisation had not been paid for nine months for the use of the locomotive.
At the same time, the NSW branch of the Rail Tram and Bus Union said it was talking to legal representatives over El Zorro's failure to pay full superannuation entitlements to its members since February 2013. The Seymour Railway Heritage Centre is reportedly owed more than one million dollars by El Zorro in relation to the hiring of the centre’s rolling stock to the company.
The company ceased trading on 4 June 2013. The Australian Securities and Investment Commission listed El Zorro Transport Pty Ltd as being under external administration following the submission of documents on 14 June. The company subsequently entered liquidation with the liquidators, HoskingHurst, appointed by the Supreme Court of NSW.
Services formerly operated by El Zorro included:
- Containerised mineral sands between Portland and Melbourne
- Grain trains for AWB Limited in Victoria and New South Wales
- Infrastructure trains for V/Line
Locomotives accredited to be operated by El Zorro on hire from others as at December 2012 included those owned by Australian Loco Leasing, AWB Limited, Chicago Freight Car Leasing Australia, Engenco, Genesee & Wyoming Australia, Junee Railway Workshop, Gemco Rail and SCT Logistics as well as various preservation organisations including Seymour Railway Heritage Centre, Steamrail Victoria and 707 Operations.
T386 was the first locomotive to receive any El Zorro branding, receiving a Z painted on the end of each hood. In May 2008 Y145 was the first locomotive to be painted into the El Zorro's grey, orange and yellow livery In January 2009 South Gippsland Railway's T342 was painted in El Zorro livery after being hired on a long lease. In August 2009 S302 was also repainted in to the corporate livery.
Wagons included container flats, open wagons, rail transporters, and ballast hoppers. Grain hoppers, sleeper discharge wagons, container flats, and ballast hoppers were also leased by the company.
- Max Berry (5 December 2006). "Rail freight competition unmasked". Melbourne: www.theage.com.au. Retrieved 2008-04-04.
- Philip Hopkins (14 April 2008). "El Zorro aims to make grain long-running cereal". theage.com.au. Retrieved 2008-04-14.
- The Fox Gets on Track Business Review Australia
- NSW accredited operators NSW Independent Transport Safety Regulator] 6 December 2012
- El Zorro's Submission to the Essential Services Commission - Proposed Rail Access Arrangements - Victorian Rail Access Regime - May 2006
- Philip Hopkins (5 January 2007). "Corrigan back on wharves for P&O, competing against Patrick". www.smh.com.au. Retrieved 2008-04-04.
- "AWB Limited - AWB GrainFlow and El Zorro Rail Freight Agreement". www.awb.com.au. 27 August 2007. Archived from the original on 2008-03-17. Retrieved 2008-04-04.
- El Zorro, AWB Grainflow join forces RailExpress.com.au 4 September 2007
- Easdown, Geoff (12 December 2007). "Asciano delivers grain haulage shock to farmers". Herald Sun (www.news.com.au). Retrieved 2008-07-30.
- News Archive Western Victorian Railfan Guide
- El Zorro runs first service for WestVic RailExpress.com.au 1 April 2008
- Warrnambool freight Wongm's Rail Gallery
- The end of the line: Operator dumps rail freight company The Standard 12 October 2008
- "AWB Limited - AWB on track to export bulk grain by rail on east coast". www.awb.com.au. 2008-08-25. Retrieved 2008-08-25.
- Geoff Easdown (26 August 2008). "El Zorro to grains rescue". Herald Sun (www.news.com.au).
- AWB, El Zorro sign new grain contract RailExpress.com.au 25 August 2008
- AWB doubles grain trains Weekly Times 16 November 2009
- AWB rail fleet makes tracks into SA North Queensland Register 15 June 2010
- "Rail freight back on Portland-Maroona line". ABC News. www.abc.net.au. 3 September 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-04.
- Alex Johnson (2008-09-04). "Sands to travel by rail: Portland line back in action". yourguide.com.au. Retrieved 2008-09-05.
- El Zorro makes a Gippsland dry run RailExpress.com.au 29 October 2008
- Peter Hemphill (2008-12-19). "Freight boon". Weekly Times. www.weeklytimesnow.com.au. Retrieved 2009-01-08.
- Notification to Wind Up Company Form 519G Australian Securities & Investments Commission 21 May 2013
- Hemphill, Peter (2013-05-28). "El Zorro court application". Weekly Times. Retrieved 2013-05-29.
- El Zorro's financial woes resurface Loco Express 29 May 2013
- "El Zorro super payments stalled". Loco Express. RTBU NSW Branch, Locomotive Division. Retrieved 2013-05-29.
- Dalton, Tyrone (2013-07-02). "Debt Blow for Railway". North Central Review. Retrieved 2013-07-02.
- "El Zorro stops trading". Weekly Times. 5 June 2013. Retrieved 2013-06-05.
- "Australia's El Zorro enters liquidation". International Railway Journal. 22 July 2013. Retrieved 2014-01-03.
- Network Access - Information Pack V/Line
- "(Victorian) Y class - where are they now?". Railpage Australia Forums (Locomotives and Rolling Stock). www.railpage.com.au. Retrieved 2008-06-02.
- "Wongm's Rail Gallery - Search - T342". wongm.railgeelong.com. Retrieved 2009-09-05.
- "Wongm's Rail Gallery - S302 transfer". wongm.railgeelong.com. 14 August 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-05.
- Philip Hopkins (21 March 2008). "Off the rails". The Age. business.theage.com.au. Retrieved 2008-06-22.