It will be another two to three months before the Mount Isa-Townsville line re-opens, Queensland Rail says.
QR said over 200km had been damaged between Richmond and Oorindi and with an overturned train at Nelia still to deal with, it it had created a dedicated taskforce which met for the first time in Townsville on Monday.
QR CEO Nick Easy said more than 400 employees and contractors would be mobilised to work on the repairs, which were now well underway.
“Our coordinated recovery crew will allow us to condense the Mount Isa line’s repair time down to eight to twelve weeks, subject to favourable weather and construction conditions,” Mr Easy said.
“That would have us reopening the line between late April and mid-May 2019."
The timeframe is further bad news for fertiliser supplier Incitec which told told the ASX on February 11 it was losing $10 million a week in earnings until the rail line servicing its Phosphate Hill facility returns to service after the region's "once in a 100-year rain event".
Mr Easy said the dedicated taskforce would coordinate the efforts of engineers and track workers – including those brought in from South East Queensland – in addition to surveyors, earthworks, excavators, truck operators and traffic control.
The taskforce will also be part of the recovery of the Pacific National train at Nelia, 50km east of Julia Creek.
“Pacific National is finalising its recovery plans for the train, wagons and products, with support from Queensland Rail and Glencore,” Mr Easy said.
“The option of a rail deviation around the Nelia site will be explored by the taskforce, should Pacific National’s recovery take longer than repairs to the Mount Isa line.”
Mr Easy said 50 damaged sites on the Mount Isa Line spanning 110km between Richmond and Hughenden had already been reinstated, allowing repair trains to start operating through the area Monday, February 25.
“We are now focused on 150 damaged sites, spanning 200 kilometres west of Richmond through to Oorindi,” Mr Easy said.
“The damage between Richmond and Oorindi includes track washouts and scouring, 16 damaged rail bridges, damage to track formations, and many locations where access roads, culverts and drainage have also been damaged or washed away.
“Two ballast trains are positioned at either end of the damaged section and we will be working closely with earthworks contractors to repair access roads, track formations and surfaces, and replace ballast and track from both east and west."
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