Queenslands biggest rail project to boost coal chain

By: Jason Whittaker


A $1 billion expansion of the export coal rail network in Queensland is a step closer with the signing of

A $1 billion expansion of the export coal rail network in Queensland is a step closer with the signing of an alliance agreement for a key part of the project.

Queensland Rail (QR) today signed the CoalConnect project alliance agreement — an alliance comprising QR, Leighton Contractors, GHD and KBR. The consortium will undertake the civil works of the Goonyella to Abbot Point Expansion Project, including the Northern Missing Link and the Buckley to Newlands Upgrade.

The $1 billion project, a major plank in Queensland Rail's $3 billion-plus investment in lifting the capacity and performance of the central Queensland coal network, is the biggest rail project in Queensland in three decades.

The State Government-owned rail operator is expected to lift tonnage capacity by almost 60 percent by 2010-11, with the ability to haul 261 million tonnes of coal across all networks.

"We’re really pleased to be pushing forward with these expansion plans — it’s great news for coal companies and the industry generally," QR CEO Lance Hockridge says.

"This expansion potentially could deliver 100 million tonnes per year through Abbot Point at Bowen — that translates to well over $10 billion in revenue at today’s prices for coal companies and the State’s burgeoning coal industry."

Hockridge says the Goonyella to Abbot Point Expansion Project is the largest and most complex project undertaken by QR since the development of the Goonyella system in the 1980s.

"QR is working closely with the Ports Corporation of Queensland and the coal industry to deliver up as quickly as possible this vital piece of infrastructure," he says.

Hockridge says QR has a proven track record in delivering rail infrastructure to schedule and within budget.

"One recent example was the Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal third rail loop, commissioned last November before the port had completed their expansion works," he says.

"QR will continue to uphold commitments to the coal supply chain to ensure maximum throughput and minimal disruption as a result of the Goonyella to Abbot Point expansion works."

Currently, QR delivers 15mtpa from the Newlands system and another 1.5mtpa from the Goonyella system to Abbot Point. The 69km Northern Missing Link will provide a vital connection between these two systems in Queensland’s northern Bowen Basin coalfields.

The infrastructure plans by QR and Ports Corporation Queensland (PCQ) will cater for an increase in capacity at the port to 30mtpa by the end of the first quarter of 2010.

By the end of 2010, QR’s completed infrastructure works in line with PCQ’s completed planned expansion will support an increase in capacity to 50mtpa.

Dependent on demand from the mining industry, there is potential for exports through the Abbot Point Coal Terminal to continue to increase beyond 2010, up to 75mtpa and possibly 100mtpa, QR says.

The entire Goonyella to Abbot Point Expansion Project comprises:
  • The development of the Northern Missing Link, a 69-kilometre section of new track between North Goonyella and Newlands
  • Upgrades along the existing track between Newlands and Buckley, including track strengthening, new passing loops and passing loop extensions
  • Upgrade works at QR’s Pring rail yards through to additional works at Abbot Point
  • Connection works within the Goonyella rail system.
In addition, QR is looking at electrification for the entire track through to the Port.

CoalConnect, which is expected to start earthworks in September, is already on the ground in the region, and had formed relationships with both the local landowners in the Link region and some of the traditional owners.

"CoalConnect has committed to our expectations that this project will not only be delivered on time and within budget, but with high sensitivity to the local community and minimal impact on the environment," Hockridge says.

"We are also looking to distribute the economic benefits locally wherever possible.

"In future years, I want this project to be considered as an outstanding achievement for QR and its alliance partners, not only by our mining customers, but by the broader Queensland community."

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