Industries fight to keep rail service

THE fight is on to stop Queensland Rail from shutting down Biloela's rail freight service.

Queensland Rail has notified several Biloela industries that it intends to close the 5.8km of track between Biloela and the main line to Gladstone in November.

This will force major industries including Teys Bros Meatworks, Grainco, Regal Seeds and Vicary Product to transport product by road, adding millions of dollars to their operating costs.

Teys Bros have already met with Transport Minister Rachel Nolan to voice their concerns, and earlier this week Banana Shire Mayor John Hooper and council's economic development consultant, Phil Casey, put their case forward to the Minister.

A QR spokesman said for some time QR had been consulting with freight customers in Biloela about the cost effectiveness and frequency of transport services.

“Because of the relatively low volume of freight from Biloela and the short haulage distances to transport hubs, the operating expenses of trains cannot compete with the faster, lower-cost transport alternatives that could be provided by road,” the spokesman said.

“The Biloela rail freight train service, known as the Seafreighter, loses more than $1 million per year.”

Q Rail said it competed against other transport operators and needed to operate to ensure the long-term sustainability of its business.

It was not in a position to subsidise the transport costs of private companies.

A Teys Bros spokesperson told Central Telegraph yesterday that if the rail service to its Biloela plant ceased, it would cost the business $1 million annually and $1.25 million up front to make changes to its loading facilities.

“This would make it harder for us to continue operating remotely, and we are trying to discuss something sensible with QR to move forward.”

Teys Bros currently moves 160 containers by rail from its Biloela plant a month, using two trains every week.

“We would have to build a container park at the plant and install some loading equipment, which could cost up to $1.25 million.

“It would also cost us roughly an extra $1 million to move the containers by road to Rockhampton.

“We have real concerns the facility at Rockhampton is in very poor state of repair and would not be able to handle the increased number of containers anyway.”

Mayor Hooper met with Ms Nolan earlier this week to argue the case for keeping the line open.

“The odds are against us because QR want everything to pay for itself,” Cr Hooper said.

“QR needs to take a holistic view.

“By stopping trains from shipping goods and products out of Biloela, they are forcing a massive amount of extra semi-trailers and B-double trucks onto local highways.

“This not only escalates the damage to the roads but also creates a safety issue.

“We are also concerned about the increased carbon footprint that would occur through the shift from rail to road and the subsequent carbon taxes that would be levied onto local industry and business.”

Mr Hooper said QR was also missing out on a lot of other freight, including fly-ash from the power station, which was currently trucked to Gladstone.

QR said no final decision had been made about the future of the service and meetings were planned in coming weeks to review the issue.

The Biloela rail freight train service, known as the Seafreighter, loses more than $1 million per year

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