The State Government has flagged April 29 as the date that the Mount Isa rail line is expected to re-open.
Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey said more than 400 Queensland Rail staff and contractors had worked 160,000 hours over the past 10 weeks to repair rail infrastructure between Oorindi and Hughenden after an unprecedented monsoonal weather event hit the region.
The line is a crucial connection between the North West Minerals province and the Port of Townsville.
Its closure has seen an increase of heavy vehicles using the Flinders Highway as companies push to keep mineral exports flowing, with the Department of Transport and Main Roads noting a peak of more than 180 heavy vehicles a day.
“Data collected by the Department of Transport and Main Roads has shown the Flinders Highway is approaching a 300 per cent increase in Type 2 road trains using the link between Townsville and Mount Isa,” a spokesman said.
Fertiliser manufacturer Incitec Pivot (IPL) has estimated lost earnings of $100-$120 million due to the outage.
A temporary bulk fertiliser facility has been operating at Richnmond for the past month.
“One of the ways we have sought to mitigate the impact of the rail outage on our business is to divert the transport of some of our product to Richmond for loading via rail through to Townsville,” an IPL spokesman said.
“The Mayor of Richmond John Wharton and the Richmond council has been very supportive in assisting with development of a transfer station at Richmond.
“In the meantime, IPL is continuing to meet east coast fertiliser demand with import products as part of the mitigation impacts of the floods.”
A temporary intermodal facility has opened at Hughenden this week, enabling freight operators to transfer containerised freight from truck to train for rail transport into Townsville while repairs continue west of Richmond on the Mount Isa line.
Mr Bailey said more than 200 sites across 300km of the rail line had required repairs, including from Hughenden to Richmond, Maxwellton to Nonda, and Tibarri to Oorindi, where there was significant flooding, washouts and erosion.
“Over 47km of track and 38 bridge abutments were damaged, requiring over 120,000 tonnes of ballast to repair the line,” he said.
“Every resource has been made available to accelerate recovery works, and I’m pleased to announce Queensland Rail expects to reopen the full length of the 1000km Mount Isa line from Monday April 29.”
Queensland Rail chief executive officer Nick Easy said staff and contractors had gone ‘above and beyond’ for what was a momentous challenge to get freight moving again in the state’s North West.
“There were many local contractors who travelled to site from Townsville, Ingham, Rockhampton, Cloncurry, Richmond, and Mount Isa to assist our crews with a range of works including earthworks, traffic control and crane hire,” he said.
“Queensland Rail’s crews could also not have done it without support from TMR and the Department of Housing and Public Works, which helped to house hundreds of workers in temporary accommodation so the job could be done more quickly.
“I thank and congratulate everyone involved for getting the job done on time and to a high standard.”