QR misses bus on coal rail link

QUEENSLAND Rail (QR) has hit back at criticism over the decision to stall the Northern Missing Link rail project, claiming it would be financially irresponsible to proceed in the current economic climate.

QR executive general manager Mike Carter has addressed the company's critics in a letter to the editor on Page 9 of today's Daily Mercury.

The Queensland Government-owned company has faced strong opposition to the halting of the project that would connect the Goonyella rail system to the Abbot Point Coal Terminal near Bowen.

Mackay region community leaders said the project should go ahead to ensure the crippling rail bottleneck problems of the past few years were not repeated and to create much-needed jobs.

Mr Carter said QR was not seeking “unrealistic returns” from coal companies, nor was QR “failing to invest in the future” by putting the massive project on hold in February.

Whitsunday Regional Mayor Mike Brunker said QR's letter was another case of the rail giant “missing the point”.

“What he (Mr Carter) is saying is effectively right,” Cr Brunker said.

“But he's missing the point, it should've been done three years ago when the boom was on.

“How come Powerlink is building powerlines from Collinsville to Bowen?

“How come the Ports Corporation is ahead of their capacity (at Abbot Point) yet Queensland Rail is coming from behind?”

Cr Brunker said “the whole point” was that the boom lasted for about five years and still QR struggled to make an agreement.

“In 18 months, you'll have 60 ships waiting off Hay Point and QR will be trying to stitch up support from the coal companies.”

In the letter, Mr Carter said tonnage forecasts for the rail line from coal companies had fallen 90 per cent; but REDC chief executive officer Narelle Pearse said that it was still a great chance for the government and QR to build the missing link.

“How long will it take from start to finish to complete the missing link and have coal running to Abbot Point? Just because tonnages are 90 per cent below original forecasts now, doesn't mean they will be once the rail is finished.

“QR needs to factor in government objectives in their planning decisions and State Government's role is to facilitate growth and create jobs,” he said.

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