VIDEO: Queensland Rail is unable to determine a timeline for a return to services for the Mt Isa Line, which continues to be heavily impacted by floodwaters since major rainfall began over a fortnight ago.
Queensland Rail chief executive Nick Easy said reopening the Mt Isa Line for those who rely on the supply chain was a top priority, but that the operator was at the mercy of mother nature for the time being.
Significant portions of the Mt Isa Line were submerged by floodwaters at the start of the month, and flooding continues to affect infrastructure around the line.
A camera in Nelia, east of Julia Creek, captured the staggering weather event swallowing the rail line on February 2, with footage released last week by the ABC.
While Easy said media reports of a 6-12 month recovery timetable were likely an exaggeration, he acknowledged it was too early for the operator to provide an accurate timeline.
“Floodwaters surrounding the site and on roads connecting to the site are yet to recede,” he said on February 14. “Once flood waters recede, we will need to wait for ground conditions to improve in order to allow for the mobilisation of people, plant and equipment to site.”
Easy said debris removal had begun on track at Richmond, and ballast trains and crews were positioned at Cloncurry and Hughenden, with 5,000 sleepers delivered to both sites for repair works to begin as soon as possible.
A Pacific National train which was caught up in the flooding event will also be addressed by Queensland Rail crews when possible.
“Over the past week, we have been working closely with Pacific National on their recovery plan for their flood-impacted train at Nelia, so that work on this recovery can immediately start once site access becomes available,” Easy said.
“Simultaneously, identifying and managing any impacts from the spill of minerals into local floodwaters is of utmost priority and we are working closely with Pacific National, Glencore, the Queensland Department of Environment and Science, and independent environmental specialists on an environmental action plan for the site which will form a critical part of our next steps.”
Queensland Rail reopened the North Coast Line south of Townsville on February 9, after crews repaired 16 kilometres of track and repacked 1,500 tonnes of ballast in just three days. Further recovery work north of Townsville allowed for the full reopening of the North Coast Line on February 14.