The prolonged rail outage in North-West Queensland will place extreme pressure on the road network as the region’s miners try to get their ore out to port, says Traeger MP Robbie Katter.
Queensland Rail last week said it could not estimate how long the rail line between Mount Isa and Port of Townsville would be cut due to extensive flooding in the region.
Mr Katter said he understood it would be a matter of a few months.
“I flew over in my Cessna and saw plenty of sections that were blown out and need repairs,” he said.
“About a third of the 1000km line is severely affected by flooding.”
The damage to the section between Cloncurry and Hughenden would have an enormous impact on North-West Queensland mining operations he said.
“A lot of ore won’t be making its way to port and will be stockpiled,” Mr Katter said. “Once the line opens up they will want to get large volumes out to port to catch up.”
As roads re-opened in the meantime, he expected extra heavy traffic on a network he argued was already too congested.
“Roads will be under pressure. There is a lot of damage to the network, but a lot of pressure on the mines to get ore to port and the earliest option will be the road,” he said.
“That’s something we’ll have to watch because they’ll be in a precarious condition themselves. There will be high risk putting even more traffic on them in the short term.”
This would be exacerbated as the tourism season kicked in and more ‘grey nomads’ joined that traffic, he said.
Mr Katter said the flooding must raise thoughts of what could be done to safeguard the region’s rail access.
Part of the problem was in areas where the rail had been raised in the past, creating a levee bank that allowed the water to build up.
Installing more culverts, drainage or even bridges and lowering the rail in sections may be looked at, he said.
But the size of this disaster – a once in 50 or 100-year event – was not something that could realistically be planned to mitigate against.
“I’d argue the bigger problem with the rail line is probably just as much about the pricing and the way the business is run than the quality of the asset and its ability to withstand flooding,” Mr Katter said.
Building an alternative export rail route to Tennant Creek should definitely be considered as an option given the government’s reluctance to fixd the issues with the rail line to Townsville, Mr Katter said.