Rail freight network slow to recover

Trucks still replace trains as Queensland’s rail freight infrastructure struggles to bounce back from this year’s disasters

Rail freight network slow to recover
Rail freight network slow to recover

By Anna Game-Lopata | February 17, 2011

Trucks are still replacing trains as Queensland’s rail freight infrastructure struggles to bounce back from this year’s disasters.

Queensland Rail, which has responsibility for several flood and cyclone-affected rail freight networks says work is continuing to get the system back in business.

Coal rail lines
under the responsibility of QR National, this year spun off the national rail operator and floated, were relatively unaffected.

However QR National is still using trucks as an alternate option to rail where possible on the North Coast line, which is operated by Queensland Rail.

Queensland Rail says it is taking measures to ensure the safety of its staff and customers in affected regions.

"We will aim to continue services, where it is safe to do so," the company says.

"At Queensland Rail we are working hard to repair our damaged infrustructure, to ensure our services are up and running again as soon as possible."

A spokesperson tells SupplyChain Review there was significant damage to Queensland Rail infrastructure across the entire state as a result of the floods and Cyclone Yasi.

"Between December 2010 and February 2011, these natural disasters impacted every Queensland Rail line, however it is still too early to calculate the true cost of the flood and cyclone damage," the spokesperson says.

While most Queensland Rail lines are open, staff are working to repair those lines damaged by flooding and Cyclone Yasi.

At present, the line from Townsville to Cairns remains closed with extensive repairs required, particularly to level crossing infrastructure.

Freight will be trucked from Townsville to Cairns until the line reopens in late February.

"We continue to work closely with affected customers on the Toowoomba line, as staff repair damage caused by flash flooding," Queensland Rail says.

"It is expected that line will be reopened in April."

"Queensland Rail remains dedicated to providing a transport service to the state, and is focused on repairing these lines to ensure they reopen as soon as safely possible."

In line with this aim, Queensland Rail says it has established a Regional Recovery Taskforce to repair cyclone and flood affected regional train lines as quickly as possible.

Queensland Transport Minister Rachel Nolan says the Taskforce will ensure a coordinated approach by bringing together senior Queensland Rail leaders from a number of regions and divisions.

"This taskforce includes representatives with a range of knowledge and skills, including expertise in human resource management, communications, workplace health and safety, customer relations and law," she says.

"It is the single point of contact co-ordinating with contractors, suppliers, employees, government and customers and will ensure services are restored as soon as possible."

Nolan says she is pleased to see the taskforce already delivering results.

She was in Tully early in the week inspecting the state of the line and speaking to Queensland Rail gangs working hard on recovery.

"Between Cairns and Townsville the main damage seems to be to signs and level crossings," Nolan says.

"Queensland Rail hopes to have the line operational in approximately two weeks but timing is largely dependent on power supply.

"Trees have generally been cleared from tracks and washouts are being repaired. The main focus now is on repairing level crossing infrastructure including flashing lights and boomgates so trains can safely run."

"Police or traffic controllers managing level crossings mean we keep trains running and delivering critical supplies to Queensland, while work continues to restore the damaged infrastructure."

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