ARTC flips over rail line cost, Bligh flops on sale

Queensland Government to retain rural rail infrastructure ownership, after ARTC rejects asking price

The Queensland Government will now retain rural rail infrastructure, after the Commonwealth's Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) rejected the asking price of the assets.

Premier Anna Bligh announced in June the Government would sell off parts of Queensland Rail as part of a massive asset fire sale to plug a multi-billion dollar hole in the State Budget.

Bligh said the Government would negotiate with the ARTC to sell the non-coal and non-suburban below rail networks, as New South Wales has done with its rail infrastructure.

But the ARTC has said it is "not in a position" to take over the assets, Bligh has announced.

"A sale to the Commonwealth Government’s ARTC would have kept the below rail network in public ownership," Bligh says.

She says the option to sell off the lines to the private sector was muted as an alternative possibility, but was never the Government’s preferred course of action.

The Government has also listened to the concerns of stakeholders, led by the Rail, Tram and Bus Union, to retain public ownership in the rail lines.

"I believe those mighty QR pioneers - dating back to 1865 - those who built our steel-vein rail network would be happy with our decision," Bligh told parliament.

"The network they built - for the betterment of Queenslanders will remain in the hands of Queenslanders - and the network solely making profits for coal companies will be in investors hands."

The ARTC was contacted for comment but is yet to respond.

It is thought the organisation was not interested in a Queensland takeover, due to its $1.2 billion involvement in rail nationwide.

The Government is still proceeding with the sale of the Port of Brisbane, Queensland Motorways (operators of the Logan Motorway, Port of Brisbane Motorway, the Gateway Bridge and its duplication project), Forestry Plantations Queensland, the Abbot Point coal terminal and Queensland Rail's coal haulage business, which will help raise $15 billion over the next three to five years.

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