Mount Isa, Queensland. Photo: Creative Commons

Study to assess double-stacked freight on Mount Isa line

The Queensland government will complete a business case into the potential to run double-stacked freight trains from Mount Isa to Stuart and the Port of Townsville.

Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey announced the business case, which will be completed by the end of 2020, along with flood resilience upgrade works.

To improve the line, which was washed out in heavy flooding in 2019, ageing rail equipment such as sleepers and ballast will be renewed. Queensland Rail will conduct geotechnical and survey work this month, which will enable new bridges to be installed and culverts to be replaced with spans and new piers.

“Those works will significantly increase capacity on waterway openings and provide protection to embankments to better withstand flood events,” said Member for Townsville Scott Stewart.

These upgrades are in addition to the $6 million works to improve the line’s resilience between Cloncurry and Hughenden.

Port of Townsville CEO Ranee Crosby said enabling double-stacked freight trains to run on the line would mean more freight coming into the port on rail.

“Townsville Port is Australia’s largest exporter of zinc, copper, lead and fertiliser, with significant growth opportunities from the North West Minerals Province, one of the world’s richest mineral-producing regions,” she said.

“These investments into the Mount Isa to Townsville Rail Line, such as enabling double-stacking of containers on rail, will offer customers greater flexibility in transporting freight to the Port, improving efficiency and helping drive down supply chain costs.”

Queensland Rail, which owns and manages the Mount Isa line, will carry out the business case, and CEO Nick Easy said improving the rail line will unlock further investment.

“The Mount Isa line is a critical connector for communities in North West Queensland and one of the state’s key freight paths, and Queensland Rail is committed to ensuring it meets the needs of communities and freight operators,” he said.

“These investments will help existing mining operators export their resources and encourage new investment in the state’s north west.

NGR to run on North Coast line for first time

Queensland’s New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) will be introduced to the Sunshine Coast line for the first time on March 2.

The change comes as Queensland Rail introduces 32 new weekly services across the south east Queensland network.

The services will join an extended inbound Caboolture service to Nambour, and come after 462 weekly services were introduced to the region last year. This increase responds to growing customer demand for rail in Queensland, said Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey.

“Close to 190 million trips were taken on public transport in 2018-19, and after two record years, we’re on-track for another record 12 months when it comes to patronage.”

The new services will be introduced along with other major improvements to rail services in south east Queensland.

“We’re backing commuters with more trains, a $371 million statewide smart ticketing system, more than $357 million in train station accessibility upgrades and the largest public transport project in Queensland’s history: the $5.4 billion Cross River Rail,” said Bailey.

In order to deliver the new services, Queensland Rail found efficiencies in the network, better utilising its existing resources, said CEO of the government owned operator, Nick Easy.

“These changes will reduce empty train running across the region by 1,460 kilometres per week – delivering extra services for our customers instead,” he said.

The introducing of the NGR will be enabled with dedicated support facilities.

“The trains will operate 45 weekly services on the line, replacing older train models, and their deployment will be supported by a new NGR stabling facility coming online at Woombye,” said Easy.

Last month, the final NGR entered service. Alterations to the current rollingstock fleet are underway to comply with disability requirements.