Study backs Townsville rail freight system upgrade


Proposed upgrade to Townsville's rail freight system can be built, will be profitable and will deliver far-reaching benefits to the north, according to new study

January 16, 2012

A proposed major upgrade to Townsville's rail freight system can be built, will be profitable and will deliver far-reaching benefits to the north, according to a new study.

Premier Anna Bligh, Main Roads Minister and Member for Thuringowa Craig Wallace today released findings of a preliminary evaluation study into the proposed Townsville Eastern Access Rail Corridor (TEARC) project - delivering on a Townsville Futures Plan commitment.

"As part of our long-term vision for the north’s economic future, we commissioned this study to determine if a rail line connecting the Port of Townsville with the North Coast and Mt Isa lines was feasible," the Premier says.

"That study is complete, we know this project is economically viable and the Queensland Government is ready to work with industry to make it happen.

"The current rail network feeding into the Port of Townsville will experience significant growth in coming years and we need to have additional infrastructure in place to cater for that.

"This is one of the most significant supply chain routes in Australia, and we can't allow it to become a bottleneck.

"TEARC not only delivers the increased capacity to meet demand, but also: allows longer trains to access the port, delivering greater efficiencies in operating costs; means a safer route, bypassing 10 level crossings; and improves traffic flow in the city centre by reducing freight trains that use the current line.

"Industry would receive huge financial gains from TEARC if it was to be built and that’s a win for our minerals industry and most importantly, a big win for the economies that depend on it."

Bligh says the next step is seeking interest from the private sector.

"Over the next three months, the Queensland Government will seek expressions of interest from private sector operators who wish to build and operate the new rail link," she says.

"We have already had a proponent express interest in funding and constructing this new piece of infrastructure. It will be a big win for Townsville and our State."

Wallace says the project will help cement the city’s position as northern Australia’s fastest-growing economic region.

"The resource sector is booming in this State and I’m very keen to see industry putting some of their profits back into infrastructure like this, which they stand to benefit most from," he says.

Transport Minister Annastacia Palaszczuk says a huge drawcard for industry is the better access to port TEARC will provide.

"There are several major mining projects potentially starting in north-west Queensland, and Townsville’s rail capacity needs to expand to meet that growing demand," she says.

"Train lengths are currently limited to 1,000 metres on the Mt Isa line and just 650 metres on the north coast line.

"TEARC would allow massive 1.4km-long trains to run straight into the port, providing substantial savings in train operating costs and passing loops.

"It would also create capacity for the growing tonnage demand on the Mt Isa rail system, a critical link between the mines in the north-west Queensland minerals province and the Port of Townsville."

Member for Townsville Mandy Johnstone adds that the TEARC will mean that Townsville and north Queensland businesses can take full advantage of the State Development Area at Stuart and increase versatility of the Port of Townsville.

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