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Cyclone Debbie: Followmont continues operations

Trucking firm looks to alternate routes as Aurizon predicts earnings hit after storm damage


While massive clean-up efforts have begun across northern New South Wales and Queensland, flood warning has been issued for Rockhampton as the aftereffects of Cyclone Debbie continue to be seen across the two states.

The severe storm and rainfall, which was followed by flooding in many parts, saw roads and highways being closed off last week.

Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says although it will be a few weeks until the full cost of damage is known, she predicts the bill to run in billions.

The damage caused to road and transport infrastructure will mean it will cost more to transport the goods from the storm-hit region.

Australian Retailers Association executive director Russell Zimmerman predicts the agriculture industry could alone report a damage worth up to 1$ billion, resulting in higher grocery prices.

But one of the transport operators in the region, Followmont Transport, says it has so far “absorbed” the extra cost of transport as it continues operations across some of the worst flood-ravaged parts of Queensland and northern NSW.

Followmont says it has continued operations across Bowen, Mackay, Townsville and Lismore despite damaging weather and road closures.

The company says drivers had to take alternative routes in regions that saw roads being closed off due to storm and flood damage.

Despite having to take longer routes, Followmont “did not pass on the extra cost to its customers”.

“We’ve heard of some other operators, including some multinational companies, having to shut down operations, but we’ve not stopped operations for a single day,” Followmont chief information officer Paul Smith tells ATN.

Smith says the company’s foremost concern is delivering supplies to the local stores and pharmacies.

“Our main focus at this stage is the community affected by the tropical cyclone.

“We will make sure the supplies are delivered to them as soon and as safely as possible.”

The company has 16 prime movers currently operating in the flood-hit region.

Earlier, Toll stated that it expected its Queensland and NSW depots to resume services starting today, however, this has not been confirmed by the company so far today.

Toll had earlier said that starting today it “will begin catching up on deliveries and pickups. There may, however, still be delays due to flooding, road closures, linehaul movements, and customer availability”.

ATN is awaiting an update from Toll.

Impact on rail

Following track closures along its Central Queensland Coal Network, including Newlands, Goonyella, Blackwater and Moura, service between Brisbane and Rockhampton was disrupted after Queensland Rail (QR) closed the Rockhampton track due to flood warning.

The cyclone also disrupted rail operations, with Aurizon seeing operations at several coal networks being suspended due to damaging weather conditions.

The company believes the consequences of operational disruptions will have a negative impact on its 2017 financial year network earrings.

Aurizon says services “will resume immediately” after the track opens, which “will allow Intermodal’s Seafreighter services between the Port of Brisbane and Rockhampton to resume”.

In the meantime, the company is liaising with road transport companies to transfer grocery items into north Queensland.

It suggests the damage and delays cwill affect the company’s FY2017 earnings.

“The cost of repairing rail infrastructure and the loss of Network revenue is expected to be recovered as part of the established regulatory process with the Queensland Competition Authority,” a company spokesperson says.

“However, there will be a change in timing of when income is received and costs are incurred which is likely to have a negative impact on FY2017 network earnings.”

While it believes the temporary closures of coal systems will have a negative effect on its FY2017 volumes and earnings , it says it is “too early assess whether there will be a change to Aurizon’s FY2017 volume and EBIT guidance”.

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