Labor commits $50m for the Mount Isa – Townsville rail line

Labor has promised $50m for the Mount Isa to Townsville railway over the next five years.
Labor has promised $50m for the Mount Isa to Townsville railway over the next five years.

The Queensland Labor government has promised to spend $50 million over five years to fix up the Mount Isa to Townsville railway line.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the election commitment to upgrade the vital transport artery would boost economic activity and jobs growth in north Queensland.

“My Government has identified the North West Minerals Province as a key region for exploration and development in Queensland’s resources sector,” the Premier said.

“Early advice from geological experts indicates the North West Minerals Province is likely to contain metals such as gold and platinum, as well as rare earth minerals, vital in an ever-growing number of ‘new frontier’ industries, from mobile phones to fuel cells, superconducting magnets and hybrid vehicle batteries.“

The Premier said the work would improve the handling capacity of the line and protect it from flooding.

Works under the Mount Isa to Townsville rail line will include rail replacement, re-sleepering, bridge upgrades, ballast replacement, new and improved passing loops, and track upgrades and maintenance.

Labor candidate for Traeger Danielle Slade said it would help save the jobs of the 81 workers who live in communities along the 1000 kilometre line in Mount Isa, Cloncurry, Hughenden and Charters Towers..

“In the last financial year, Queensland Rail has invested $58 million to improve the performance, safety and reliability of the line,” Ms Slade said.

”The largest capital investment project is a $25 million investment to replace 51km of steel sleepers between Richmond and Mount Isa.”

Other projects on the line include the $11.4m replacing of culverts on the Phosphate Hill branch line a $7.4m project to undercut 23km of ballast, $5m to replace 10km of steel sleepers between Neila and Nonda, $5m to replace lightweight 41kg rails with heavier 60kg rails and $4.5m to upgrade eight level crossings.

Fixing up the railway has also been a big priority for Mount Isa member Robbie Katter. 

He says the cost of rail transport was a major issue holding back investment in North West Queensland.

Earlier this year Mr Katter said rail users were putting more ore-carrying trucks on the road because of rail user charges.

“Figures published by the federal government’s Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) show the cost of moving 1 tonne of freight by road over a distance of 1 kilometre (known as cost per tonne kilometre) is 7.5 cents for road, more than double the 3.5 cents for rail,” he said in March.

“The Government is milking the rail users with charges (still government owned) increasing by around 70% in the past three years, pushing some transporters off the rail and onto the road, which is much more inefficient.”