Logistics, Ports & Terminals, Mining and Heavy Industries

Port-rail project part of major Mt Isa – Townsville overhaul

A $150 million Turnbull commitment to ease access to the Port of Townsville is part of a five- to ten-year project to upgrade connection from Mount Isa to the north Queensland port.

A new rail link announced by Malcolm Turnbull on May 18 will connect Queensland’s North Coast Line directly with the Port of Townsville.

The Coalition will contribute $150 million to the port if it wins at the election on July 2.

Prime Minister Turnbull, now well into his election campaign, was joined at the north Queensland port by infrastructure and transport minister Darren Chester and local member Ewen Jones to make the announcement.

He said the $150 million commitment would address an emerging bottleneck in the supply chain, as well as removing freight trains from Townsville’s suburbs, increasing safety and reducing congestion.

“Here in this great port, this port city of Townsville, 11 million tonnes are being exported [annually] at the moment, rising to 40 million tonnes in the decades ahead,” Turnbull told the media.

“The new rail corridor is going to enable that to happen.”

Queensland’s Department of Transport and Main Roads says the Townsville Eastern Access Rail Corridor (TEARC) will allow 1400-metre trains to access the port. Train lengths are currently limited to 1000 metres on the Mount Isa line, and 650 metres on the North Coast line.

As of its May report, Infrastructure Australia had the upgrade of the Mount Isa to Townsville rail corridor – which includes the TEARC – listed as a medium term priority initiative, in the business case development stage.

“In its current form, the rail line does not have capacity to cater for the projected increase in demand for rail haulage from mines in the Mount Isa region to the Port of Townsville,” Infrastructure Australia said in February.

“Future demand on the line is, under the moderate scenario, estimated to be 20 million tonnes per annum.”

Click to enlarge.

Port of Townsville rail link


As of 2011, the line only had a theoretical capacity of 7.5 million tonnes per annum, Infrastructure Australia added.

A 2012 preliminary evaluation of the TEARC estimated a cost of $221 million for the main project, and $160 million for consequential works, including the extension of crossing loops on the Mount Isa line to cater for 1400-metre trains.

While the study is clearly not final, that would bring the total cost of the rail project to a rough estimate of $381 million.

Turnbull said the Commonwealth estimates the $150 million commitment made on Thursday will make up half of the cost of the project.

“We are committing $150 million to it and we expect to be working with the Queensland Government to make it happen,” he said.

“Putting that money on the table means the project should now go ahead. This has been a top priority. Anna Bligh has talked about it. The current premier has talked about it.

“This is a project that will be built at some point. It is one of those projects that has to be built.”

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