Below Rail Infrastructure, Environment and Sustainability, Freight Rail

40km of major washouts on Mt Isa Line

Receding floodwaters in Queensland’s northwest have allowed Queensland Rail crews to begin assessing the full extent of damage to the Mt Isa Line, with early reports showing damage across 307 kilometres of track.

QR chief executive Nick Easy updated the public on February 20, saying early assessments showed extreme erosion at 204 sites, including roughly 40 kilometres of major track washouts and 20 kilometres of track scouring.

“Work is underway to confirm required repairs and expected recovery timeframes, taking into account optimum use of all industry resources, plant and equipment.”

The Mt Isa Line has been closed since early February when northern Queensland was hit by an historic rainfall event.

A Pacific National freight train was stranded on the line, and Easy said work was continuing at Nelia – 50 kilometres east of Julia Creek – to assess the full extent of work required there.

“While ground conditions still aren’t dry enough to accommodate the heavy machinery required for Pacific National to recover the train and wagons, we are hopeful that – weather conditions permitting – Pacific National can commence this process late this week.”

An exclusion zone of 20 metres has been established around the train, and fencing will progressively be arranged around the site, Easy said.

19 of the train’s wagons carrying zinc concentrate, and two carrying lead concentrate, have sustained damage, according to Easy. Assessments are being made to identify potential impacts.

Elsewhere, crews continue to get a solid idea of damage done. 71 bridges have been inspected and 16 confirmed as damaged. 100,000 cubic metres of ballast or fill is estimated to be required to repair damaged track. And QR has already had 10,000 sleepers delivered to Hughenden and Cloncurry in anticipation of repair works.

“All available resources are being mobilised to undertake repairs, including engineers and track teams from South East Queensland, to ensure we return the Mt Isa Line to full operation as soon as possible,” Easy said.

As for a timeline, he reiterated his statements from last week. “At this stage Queensland Rail believes the line can be fixed earlier than the 6-12 months that has been suggested and reported,” he said. “We will continue to keep stakeholders and the community informed of these plans and timeframes.”