Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has reportedly said a re-elected Labor Government will spend $50 million over the next five years, to fix the rail line between Mount Isa and Townsville.
According to a report from Mount Isa paper the North West Star, Palaszczuk said an upgrade to the North Queensland rail line would boost economic activity in the region, by helping miners capitalise on a wealth of mineral deposits in the region.
“My Government has identified the North West Minerals Province as a key region for exploration and development in Queensland’s resources sector,” the premier was quoted as saying.
“Early advice from geological experts indicates the North West Minerals Province is likely to contain metals such as gold and platinum, as well as rare earth minerals, vital in an ever-growing number of ‘new frontier’ industries, from mobile phones to fuel cells, superconducting magnets and hybrid vehicle batteries.”
According to the report, work would include rail replacement, new sleepers and ballast, new and improved passing loops, and upgrades to bridges and track.
The work would be aimed at improving the capacity of the line, and protecting it against flooding.
Queensland member for Mount Isa, Robbie Katter, has been vocal about the need to upgrade the line, which helps businesses in his seat reach export markets via the Port of Townsville.
But Katter has also encouraged governments to reduce unnecessary costs for rail operators.
“Figures published by the Federal Government’s Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics show the cost of moving one tonne of freight by road over a distance of 1 kilometre is 7.5 cents for road, more than double the 3.5 cents for rail,” Katter was quoted by North West Star in March.
“The Government is milking the rail users, with charges (still government-owned) increasing by around 70% in the past three years, pushing some transporters off the rail and onto the road, which is much more inefficient.”
The Queensland election takes place on November 25.