QRC blasts Aurizon for still being on the wrong track

THE coal industry has attacked rail operator Aurizon again claiming the impacts of its maintenance practices on the vital central Queensland coal network have worsened with miners unable to meet export contracts.

In a submission to the Queensland Competition Authority, the Queensland Resources Council said Aurizon Network has continued its campaign to disrupt access in order "to extract a more favourable result in relation to revenue''.

"Aurizon Network's improper conduct justifies significant changes to the undertaking to ensure that Aurizon Network cannot misuse its monopoly power again,'' the QRC said.

The issue stems from a QCA draft ruling on the amount of revenue Aurizon could earn on the monopoly network. The amount was $1 billion less over four years than Aurizon had submitted.

Since that draft ruling Aurizon has imposed stricter maintenance practices on the network to reduce costs. The effect could be the loss of about 20 million tonnes of coal exports. The QRC submission has said there have been coal producers who have been unable to rail the volumes necessary to meet contracts in May and June.

"This has also resulted in considerable stockpiling at both mines and ports across the CQCN (Central Queensland Coal Network),'' the submission said. "(There has been) continued reduction in the number of available or useable train paths: there has been a consistent decline in the number of available or useable train paths, which has continued to impact a number of coal producers' coal sales.

"The impacts of Aurizon Network's behaviour are not sustainable and require robust changes to the drafting of (the undertaking) to discourage such damaging conduct from being repeated in the future."

"The Aurizon Network board owe a duty to act in a way consistent with the best interests of the company.

"That duty has not to date tempered the actions of Aurizon Network. Accordingly, generally speaking, the QRC do not consider that the Aurizon Network board operate in a way as to encourage compliance.''

Rival rail operator Pacific National has also said that greater accountability should be applied to Aurizon in relation to maintenance.