Emergency repairs to the Mount Isa Line will reduce rail freight travel times between Mount Isa and Townsville by up to 50 minutes.
The time savings have been achieved during an 11-week recovery operation to restore one of the state’s major rail lines after multiple sections washed away in floodwaters during North Queensland’s unprecedented monsoonal weather in February.
Speaking from the Port of Townsville, Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey said the restoration works performed by a dedicated 400-person Queensland Rail taskforce created to fast track the repairs had upgraded sections of the line that were previously under speed restrictions.
“QR made the most of the line’s closure to deliver large scale maintenance activities such as rerailing and reconditioning works ahead of schedule while crews had unlimited access,” Mr Bailey said.
“This means QR can now remove previous speed and axle load restrictions on upgraded sections along the line, delivering a significant betterment for this critical North West supply chain connecting industry to the Port of Townsville, supporting the local economy and local jobs.
“As a result, end-to-end run times between Townsville and Mount Isa will be reduced by up to 50 minutes.
“This is a great achievement by QR, and means that as services resume, industry will benefit from productivity enhancements made along the entire corridor.”
Member for Thuringowa Aaron Harper said final track inspections and preparations were underway ahead of the line re-opening to freight on Monday 29 April.
“We understand how important this supply chain is, and an incredible 160,000 hours of labour went into restoring the line as quickly as possible,” Mr Harper said.
“Part of being a Queenslander is banding together when times get tough, and that is what we witnessed here with engineers and track workers travelling from across the state to join local crews and deliver an ambitious schedule of work ahead of time.
“I would like to sincerely thank everyone involved in delivering this result for North and North West Queensland.”
Mr Bailey said the $100 million pledged by Federal Labor to support further maintenance and upgrades on the line would go a long way to ensuring the corridor was better equipped to deal with severe weather.
“The Palaszczuk Government is already investing more than $380 million in the Mount Isa line over the next five years, and Bill Shorten’s pledge will help to increase the line’s efficiency and capacity, and make it more resilient when extreme weather events occur in the future,” Mr Bailey said.
More than 200 sites across 300-kilometres of track required repair, including 38 bridge abutments, the replacement of 47-kilometres of rail and 120,000 tonnes of ballast.
Queensland Rail CEO Nick Easy said the focus had now shifted to liaising with freight partners to resume services on the line and facilitate extra runs to assist with moving additional product delayed by the extended closure.
“We anticipate the first freight train to depart Townsville and travel the entire length of the line Mount Isa will be a Pacific National service,” Mr Easy said.
“The train will go to Mount Isa to be loaded with mineral concentrate from 5am Monday, with the North West supply chain gradually returning to schedule over the coming weeks.
“The first passenger service, an outbound Inlander service, is scheduled to depart Townsville on 11 May.
“This is a huge planning task, and a great example of the many pieces of the puzzle which have come together to allow the recovery of the Mount Isa line to be such a success.
“The reopening of the entire corridor will significantly reduce the number of truck movements on the Flinders Highway and increase the productivity and efficiency of the North West supply chain.
“This truly has been a team effort involving Queensland Rail staff and contractors from across the state, in addition to TMR and the Department of Housing and Public Works who assisted Queensland Rail to establish temporary workers camps at Richmond and Julia Creek.
“I’d also like to extend my sincerest thanks to and congratulate all involved for reconnecting our state as quickly as they have, and to the standard that they have.”