$200m Budget boost for QR to expand national network

By: Jason Whittaker

Queensland Rail (QR) will spend $200 million on new rolling stock and freight terminals as it ramps up its national

Queensland Rail (QR) will spend $200 million on new rolling stock and freight terminals as it ramps up its national expansion program.

The spending, allocated in this week's State Budget, bolsters QR’s competitive position in the general (non-bulk) freight market which was enhanced by the start of services from Melbourne to Perth last November.

The ‘east-west’ services were the final link in QR’s national general freight network which increased customer choice by offering containerised services from Cairns to Perth via its QRNational Intermodal business.

QR will purchase 18 new locomotives and 488 wagons for its intermodal freight business. Another $187 million will be spent upgrade the Forrestfield terminal at Perth and $11 million for the Dry Creek facility in Adelaide.

"This investment underlines QR’s commitment to the national intermodal market and our ambition to expand the business over time to leverage off the growth opportunities," QR CEO Lance Hockridge says.

QR Group Executive General Manager Freight Stephen Cantwell says non-bulk freight volumes between mainland cities are forecast to double in size between 2000 and 2020 with rail expected to take an increasing share of the market from road due to rail’s lower carbon emissions, track upgrades and increasing costs for road transport.

"QR aims to capture a slice of this growth and keep building its share of this highly competitive market by demonstrating the quality, competitiveness and reliability of our service," Cantwell says.

"This investment in modern, efficient equipment including more powerful locomotives will improve our cost competitiveness by enhancing fuel efficiency and reliability and provide us with the capacity to increase volumes and realise economies of scale.

"Over the next month we expect to call tenders for the new rolling stock, which will be used to update our fleet progressively in 2009 and 2010.

"The Perth and Adelaide terminals will be upgraded to accommodate the longer trains that will operate on the east-west route once the fleet is expanded."

Each week QRNational Intermodal offers four services on the eastern seaboard, six services from Melbourne to Adelaide and two services from Melbourne to Perth.

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