QR National struggles to right coal network

As floodwaters gradually recede, the impact on Queensland's coal network customers and tonnages including the cost of recovery is yet to be fully assessed

QR National struggles to right coal network
QR National struggles to right coal network

January 18, 2011

As floodwaters gradually recede, the impact on Queensland's coal network customers and tonnages including the cost of recovery is yet to be fully assessed.

While Freight Rail provider QR National says there is progress on the recovery efforts across the company’s operations, total coal tonnages across the QR National coal network, which is used by both QR National and Pacific National trains, is expected to continue to be impacted over coming weeks.

QR National says the Moura coal line was opened to traffic last week and the Blackwater network is now targeted to re-open late this week, following a detailed track inspection.

"The Newlands line to Abbot Point Coal terminal near Bowen continues to operate," the company says in a statement.

"This system has remained open throughout and while it operated at reduced railings in December it has recovered well in January."

"The Goonyella network into the ports of Dalrymple Bay and Hay Point, south of Mackay, is also still operating, despite being closed from 24 to 30 December following the derailment of a Pacific National train near Yukan.

"The network is currently working at around 70 percent capacity due to reduced coal availability."

"The Blackwater network that feeds into the port of Gladstone is expected to re-open this week, following a detailed inspection and assessment of flood-damaged track," QR National says.

"The system has been closed since 27 December. QR National has mobilised resources, both people and equipment, to ensure repairs are completed efficiently.

"On current estimates, services are expected to resume on the line as early as Thursday (20 Jan), pending no significant rain and recovery operations proceeding as planned.

"It is planned that services would be available from Burngrove (near Blackwater) east from that time, and then progressively to mines located on the (northern) Gregory branch from the weekend (22/23 January).

"Precise dates for resumption of services for the Minerva and Rolleston mines are yet to be determined."

In southern Queensland, QR National says it is unable to operate services west of Brisbane because of flooding and damage to the rail line on the Toowoomba Range following a landslide on 10 January.

"QR National is awaiting further advice from the network owner, Queensland Rail, on the extent of the damage to infrastructure and likely timeframe for restoration of the track," says QR National Managing Director Lance Hockridge.

"We are unable to provide services to coal customers, west of Brisbane and to grain and general freight customers in south-west Queensland," he says.

"QR National's general freight services along the North Coast Line to locations beyond Gladstone to Cairns are not able to operate because the line remains cut by floodwaters at Rockhampton. This is expected to continue through this next week."

Many areas of the coal network continue to be subject to speed restrictions, which is standard practice following a large flood event.

This allows QR National to monitor track condition as train services resume and increase and future repair requirements are assessed.

"QR National is working closely with all participants in the coal export supply chain to maximise throughput," Hockridge says.

"We are liaising daily with coal mining customers to understand the coal available for railing, including that available on stockpiles and when coal production is re-commencing.

"QR National is also mobilising all resources for its train services – staff, locomotives and wagons – to ensure they are ready to respond to customer requirements when track infrastructure becomes available.

"We have ensured the orderly departure of staff from facilities likely to be impacted or isolated by floodwaters, including workshops at Rockhampton and Redbank, near Ipswich."

According to Hockridge, QR National is assisting communities in which its people live and work across Queensland.
Senior QRN representatives are also part of the Queensland Recovery Taskforce that is being led by Major General Mick Slater.

"The flood impacts across the length and breadth of Queensland as they are unfolding are colossal," Hockridge says.

"We extend our sympathy to those who have lost loved ones and to those burdened with the heartache of returning to damaged homes and communities.

"Thousands of QR National staff live and work in these flood-affected communities across Queensland.

"We are supporting staff who have been directly affected and also allowing them the flexibility to help out work colleagues and neighbours who have been impacted."

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