The twelve-week operation to repair the Mount Isa rail line after unprecedented flood damage has drawn to a close, with the first freight trains running again on Monday 29 April.
The first train departed Cloncurry at approximately 1.10am and will make its way into Townsville Port by evening.
A further two trains departed Stuart and Partington, travelling to Cloncurry and Mount Isa respectively.
The trains carried a mix of products including containerised freight and minerals.
Queensland Rail’s CEO, Nick Easy, said it was fantastic to see such an important supply chain back up and running, connecting industry and communities between Townsville and Mount Isa once again.
“It’s been a long twelve weeks leading up to this day, with our dedicated 400-person strong taskforce working tirelessly to restore the line as quickly as possible, racking up more than 160,000 hours of work in the process,” Mr Easy said.
“We’re extremely thankful for the hard work of all involved in the line’s recovery and remediation, enabling the line to reopen to rail traffic today.
“This is a fantastic result for the North West region of our state, which is not only reconnected by rail from today, but will also benefit from the improved efficiencies along the line.”
With the resumption of trains along the full length of the Mount Isa line from today, Mr Easy said Queensland Rail urged local motorists to remain vigilant at level crossings, and to always obey the safety signs and signals.
“With the line’s closure over the last twelve weeks, local motorists may have become accustomed to reduced or no rail traffic at their local level crossings.
“However, with the full length of the line reopening today, we’re asking all motorists to be aware of their surroundings around railways and at level crossings, and always obey the signs and signals in place for their safety.”
The Inlander passenger service, which runs between Townsville and Mount Isa twice per week, is expected to resume from 11 May 2019.
Mount Isa line repairs an upgrade opportunity
Queensland Rail has used emergency repairs to perform a number of efficiency upgrades to the Mount Isa Line.
The works are expected to reduce rail freight travel times by up to 50 minutes.
Over the eleven-week recovery operation, more than 200 sites across 300km of track required repair, including 38 bridge abutments, the replacement of 47km of rail and 120,000 tonnes of ballast.
Mr Bailey, said the restoration works had upgraded sections of the line that were previously under speed restrictions.
“QR made the most of the line’s closure to deliver large scale maintenance activities such as rerailing and reconditioning works ahead of schedule while crews had unlimited access,” Mr Bailey said.
The maintenance works mean QR can now remove previous speed and axle load restrictions on upgraded sections along the line, improving the critical North West supply chain connecting industry to the Port of Townsville.
As a result, end-to-end run times between Townsville and Mount Isa will be reduced by up to 50 minutes.
“This is a great achievement by QR, and means that as services resume, industry will benefit from productivity enhancements made along the entire corridor,” Mr Bailey said.
Mr Bailey said the $100 million pledged by Federal Labor to support further maintenance and upgrades on the line would go a long way to ensuring the corridor was better equipped to deal with severe weather.
“The Palaszczuk Government is already investing more than $380 million in the Mount Isa line over the next five years, and Bill Shorten’s pledge will help to increase the line’s efficiency and capacity, and make it more resilient when extreme weather events occur in the future,” Mr Bailey said.
Mr Easy said the focus had now shifted to liaising with freight partners to resume services on the line and facilitate extra runs to assist with moving additional product delayed by the extended closure.
Final track inspections and preparations are underway ahead of the line reopening to freight on Monday 29 April.
“We anticipate the first freight train to depart Townsville and travel the entire length of the line Mount Isa will be a Pacific National service,” Mr Easy said.
The train will go to Mount Isa to be loaded with mineral concentrate from 5am Monday, with the North West supply chain gradually returning to schedule over the coming weeks.
The first passenger service, an outbound Inlander service, is scheduled to depart Townsville on 11 May.
The reopening of the entire corridor will significantly reduce the number of truck movements on the Flinders Highway and increase the productivity and efficiency of the North West supply chain.