Saturday 23rd Mar, 2019

New taskforce begins Mt Isa Line flood repairs

Rail track. Photo: RailGallery.com.au

Queensland Rail believes it can return the heavily-flood damaged Mt Isa Line to service within eight to 12 weeks.

The operator has provided a timeline for a return to services after heavy rainfall flooded large sections of the Mt Isa Line at the start of February.

The line is an important transport link to the Port of Townsville for several local lead and zinc operations, including MMG, South32 and Glencore.

All three companies have donated to Queensland flood appeals in the past month, including a $250,000 donation from MMG and $1 million each from South32 and Glencore.

Incitec Pivot, which operates the Phosphate Hill mine and ore processing plant around 1000 kilometres from Townsville, also contributed $100,000 to the relief effort.

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Queensland Rail CEO Nick Easy said the formation of a new taskforce, which met for the first time in Townsville on Monday 25 February, would help coordinate repairs to re-open the line ahead of previous estimates.

“Our coordinated recovery crew will allow us to condense the Mt Isa Line’s repair time down to eight to twelve weeks, subject to favourable weather and construction conditions,” Easy said.

“That would have us reopening the line between late April and mid-May 2019.”

The focus of works is stretch of flood damaged track between Richmond and Oorindi which measures in at more than 200 kilometres.

Easy said more than 400 Queesnland Rail employees and contractors will be engaged in the work.

50 sites on the 100-kilometres stretch of rail between Richmond and Hughenden have already been reinstated after they were damaged in the weather event.

“We will continue to identify opportunities wherever possible to accelerate repairs so we can open it earlier if possible,” Easy said. “Queensland Rail is allocating every possible resource to the Mount Isa Line recovery work.”

The newly-formed taskforce will also play a role in the recovery of the Pacific National train that was stranded and damaged by the flooding at Nelia, east of Julia Creek.

“Pacific National is finalising its recovery plans for the train, wagons and products, with support from Queensland Rail and Glencore,” 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 Mt Isa Line.”

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,” he said.

“We are absolutely focused on opening the Mount Isa Line as soon as we can safely do so and will continue to keep the community and our stakeholders informed as updates become available.”