A washout section on the Mount Isa rail line
A washout section on the Mount Isa rail line

Flood-damaged rail line costing millions per week

THE  severely damaged Mount Isa to Townsville rail line is costing mine operators "tens of millions" in revenue every week.

Katter's Australian Party state leader Robbie Katter has called on authorities to speed up efforts to repair more than 300km of line which was destroyed during this month's severe flooding in the North West.

Mr Katter has also suggested an independent co-ordinator be assigned specifically to look after the recovery work of the rail line, separate from State Disaster Recovery Co-ordinator Major-General (retired) Stuart Smith's role.

"Whatever efforts the Government is planning to make through Queensland Rail to fix this problem, they need to triple it, it's critical that this line opens up fast," he said.

A total of 307km of track on the rail line has been damaged by the unprecedented North Queensland floods, with extreme erosion identified at 204 sites.

This includes about 40km of major track washouts and 20km of track scouring.

A view over a bridge washout on the Mount Isa rail line near Julia Creek taken on February 7.
A view over a bridge washout on the Mount Isa rail line near Julia Creek taken on February 7.

 

Queensland Rail chief executive Nick Easy said work was under way to confirm how much time was needed for the repairs.

"All available resources are being mobilised to undertake repairs, including engineers and track teams from southeast Queensland, to ensure we return the Mount Isa line to full operation as soon as possible," he said.

"At this stage Queensland Rail believes the line can be fixed earlier than the six to 12 months that has been suggested and reported.

"We will continue to keep stakeholders and the community informed of these plans and time frames."

Mr Katter, who has been a strident advocate for improvements to the Mount Isa to Townsville line, said it was a good time to revisit the topic of a long-term upgrade but immediate repairs were key.

"It's become highly critical that that track just comes online as soon as possible," he said.

"I think given that mining companies are looking at losing tens of millions of dollars per week at the moment, I'd rather not risk people losing their jobs or having to mothball mine operations."

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the total damage bill to the rail line remained unknown and assessments were under way.

"It is a big impact because you've got no movement at all … that's why we're looking where we can to do alternate movements," she said.

Mr Easy said QR was also working to identify and manage environmental impacts caused by the spill of minerals into floodwaters from a Pacific National freight train that derailed at Nelia, east of Julia Creek.

"Any environmental impacts caused by this incident will be taken very seriously," he said.

"Aerial surveys have been conducted of both the Nelia site and downstream areas to inform sampling and assessment activities.

"While site access remains challenging, ground-based sampling is expected to commence later this week.

"Early inspections indicate that a significant portion of the mineral concentrates have remained in the train's wagons but that 19 wagons carrying zinc concentrate and two carrying lead concentrate have sustained damage."

Mr Easy said a more accurate assessment can be made once the site becomes accessible.

It is understood heavy machinery cannot yet access the area around the derailed Pacific National train.