Track record needs a fix
THE dysfunctional nature of the Great Northern Railway is fanning the flames for the construction of a new line between Mount Isa and Darwin.
The 900km Great Northern Railway between Townsville and Mount Isa has been the subject of complaint and criticisms for the past decade.
Over recent months mayors and politicians along the line have been critical of its management and maintenance.
Questions have been asked as to why trucks were carting so much mineral and other mining related material along the Flinders Highway when there was a railway line running parallel to the road.
Richmond Mayor John Wharton said the tracks of the Great Northern Railway would disappear under grass if the State Government didn’t act to improve freight volumes along the line. He said the line was operating well below its potential.
Queensland Rail chief executive Nick Easy said the department was committed to improving rail infrastructure along the line. “We have invested $ 58 million in the last financial year in improving the performance of the line,” Mr Easy said.
He said the department was undertaking a $ 25 million project to replace 51km of steel sleepers along the line between Julia Creek and Mount Isa.
Cr Wharton said the poor performance of the line de- manded that a new line be built 670km from Mount Isa to Tennant Creek where it would join the Adelaide to Darwin line.
“This should be a priority Federal Government nation building project,” Cr Wharton said.
We are trying to develop Northern Australia. This new line is what we need to help build this part of the nation. We need to link the Townsville and Darwin ports.”
Mount Isa Chamber of Commerce president Travis Crowther said a rail link between his city and Darwin would “open the country up”.
“There are ongoing issues with the Townsville to Mount Isa rail line. Having a link to Darwin would mean being able to send mineral product out of there,” Mr Crowther said.
Cloncurry grazier Jacqueline Curley said extending the line from Mount Isa to Darwin would be good for the cattle and mining industries.
“There would be times we’d use it to send cattle to Darwin for live export. It would take a lot of trucks off the road that are now carrying mining freight. It would open the country up and she said.
Grazier and former Cloncurry Shire councillor Jane McMillan said it would be a “breakthrough” if Mount Isa was connected to Darwin by rail line.
“It would open links between Darwin and Townsville. The trouble is the Townsville to Mount Isa line is so terrible the mining companies are putting their product on the road,” she said.
Darwin Chamber of Commerce CEO Greg Bicknell said there were large phosphate deposits on the Northern Territory side of the border that could be mined and shipped out of Darwin.
“We have a port that needs more cargo movements, more mineral freight,” he said.
Tom Ryan from the Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association said a Mount IsaTennant Creek- Darwin rail link would open up trade links between Northern Australia, China and South East Asia.
“We already get a lot of cattle coming into the Territory from Queensland. Having a rail link would reduce transport costs. It would help us move grain and machinery into the Territory and it would help us get our cattle out to Queensland,” he said. create jobs,”