Robbie Katter is calling on the state government to give “straight answers” on the pricing and safety issues on the Mount Isa – Townsville rail line.
The member for Mount Isa asked Deputy Premier and Minister for Transport Jackie Trad in parliament last week that given mining users on the rail line are shifting freight to road, whether competitive rail freight costs were a key industry enabler in the North-West Minerals Province (NWMP).
“Will the Government commit to reducing the prices it charges customers on this line to support industry and jobs in the region?” he asked.
Ms Trad said QR’s access charges for the Mount Isa line cover the operating, maintenance and capital renewal costs of providing this service and the costs were necessary to ensure the ongoing financial sustainability of the system.
“QR’s provision of rail access, including pricing principles, is regulated by the Queensland Competition Authority,” she said.
“QR cannot provide different prices to different operators for the same commodity in the same geographic location unless there are differences in the costs or the risks of providing the service. The charges cover the cost, and there is no unreasonable profitability being charged on this line as it is regulated.”
She also said QR were working with Glencore and Pacific National but availability of rolling stock has been a barrier to Glencore increasing its freight service.
“We are also looking at non-price options to improve the attractiveness of rail transport, including increasing the loading gauge between Stuart and Mount Isa, promoting the establishment of common user intermodal terminals and encouraging new low-cost rail operators to enter the market,” she said.
Mr Katter said the response was “political spin”.
“The prices have driven freight off the rail lines and onto the road and its making the key industries in the North West less competitive,” he said.
“If there were road trains driving up George Street, you can bet there’d be action from the Government immediately.”
Mr Katter said the rail line is extremely important in ensuring the NWMP remains competitive.
“It’s a critical asset that should be used to support our industries and drive job creation.”
“Instead it’s becoming a barrier to new development in the region.”
MR Katter questioned whether MMG Dugald River were also going to take their ore on the road.
“If the Government doesn’t address the inherent problems with the way they manage the line, they are going to see all new business choosing to go road over rail,” he said.
“It should be cheaper by a factor of almost three to use rail as a bulk mode of transport.”