Rail providers gear up in the face of big wet


Unseasonal rainfall in Queensland resulting in disruption to coal producers has a knock-on effect on their providers

Rail providers gear up in the face of big wet
Rail providers gear up in the face of big wet

By Anna Game-Lopata | December 14, 2010

Pacific National and QR National have instituted wet weather programs and continue to monitor delays caused by excessive wet weather in Queensland.

Pacific National, which carries 17 per cent of Queensland’s coal haulage market says the disruption has resulted in lower volumes, which are
expected to be recouped later in the financial year.

A spokesperson for Asciano, Pacific National’s parent company says the nature of
its take or pay contracts with
coal
producing customers
will insulate the company from significant losses.

Additionally,
the spokesperson says there have been some negative impacts on the track with washouts causing delays.

"The washouts have also required trains to operate under speed restrictions," the spokesperson says.

"To help reduce impact on services, Pacific National has introduced a wet weather proofing program for locomotives,
brought in additional labour and mobilised provisioning equipment along the corridors."

QR National says excessive wet weather resulted in the temporary closure of the Goonyella system on Saturday December 11 at 2300hrs and the Blackwater system
on Sunday December 12 at 1000hrs.

"The Blackwater system reopened at 1800hrs on Sunday 12 December with a blanket speed restriction remaining in place," a spokesperson for the newly listed company says.

"The Goonyella system has also been reopening since 1800 Sunday 12 December with a blanket speed restriction in place, while the Moura and Newlands systems continue to operate."

The rail provider, which currently accounts for approximately 83 per cent of Queensland’s coal haulage market, declined to specify further impacts
to its business

Despite the flooding, Rio Tinto has decided to partially resume its mining operations adding that work is now underway to determine the extent of impacts.

The mining giant told Reuters that continuous rains on its Queensland sites "impacted on production" and the state's biggest coal producer, BHP Billiton, has flagged lower second-quarter production because of the rain.

Media reports say the unusually heavy downpours significantly disrupted the operations of up to 40 open-cut coal mines in Queensland and mining authorities in Bowen Basin and nine other mining areas have already declared natural disasters.

Macarthur Coal, Xstrata and Anglo American have declared force majeure on coking-coal production in Queensland because of the heavy rains ahead of the wet season.

November rainfall in Queensland’s coal hubs was up to 400 per cent above average, and in NSW rainfall was up to 300 per cent higher.

The start of a wet summer has the market expecting a rise in coal prices similar to that in 2007-08, when Queensland's coking coal production was lowered because of unfavourable weather, leading to a tripling in annually set coking coal prices to US300 a tonne.


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