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Hunter coal chain funds to shorten Newcastle vessel queue

<p>The coal chain serving Port Waratah Coal Services (PWCS) at Newcastle has received a welcome boost in the form of $145m worth of investment to the Hunter Valley rail networks.</p> <p>The money comes as part of the ARTC’s track lease agreement with the New South Wales Government and will be injected into the network over the next five years.</p> <p>It should bring some relief to the coal vessel queues that have plagued Newcastle for the past two years because it will raise the capacity of the network from its present 85m tones to 100m tonnes.</p> <p>The investment program aims to eliminate the bottlenecks in the system, to raise maximum speeds from 60 km&#47h to 80 km&#47h and to upgrade bridges to allow axle loads of 35 tonnes.</p> <p>A spokesman for the Newcastle Port Corporation said the investment focused on key areas that would help improve the efficiencies to the port.</p> <p>"We would welcome any increase in investment that would see the links in the coal chain strengthened," the spokesman said.</p> <p>PWCS has taken a lot of criticism over the vessel queue, despite having no control over the supply chain leading to its terminals.</p> <p>Problems with the queue have exacerbated in the last year with the China-driven boom for coal and iron ore.</p> <p>Association of Australian Ports and Marine Authorities executive director John Hirst said the number of capesize vessels being diverted away from coal into iron ore is also a increasing factor in the problem of Australian coal vessel queues.</p> <p>"This means that there is a proportionally higher number of panamax vessels that are servicing the coal trade at present and therefore contributing to the vessel queue," Mr Hirst said. </p> <br />