In a further landmark for the massive GAP project, a new balloon loop was commissioned at the Abbot Point Coal Terminal near Bowen, which is aimed at providing coal customers with increased flexibility for unloading trains at the port.
QR National managing director and chief executive officer Lance Hockridge said the commencement of track laying activities and the commissioning of the second loop at Abbot Point on schedule were major achievements in light of Queensland’s wet weather in recent months.
“It is testament to the calibre of the project workforce that we’re right on track for trains to start running on the Northern Missing Link from early 2012, enabling an immediate boost to coal tonnages from the central Bowen Basin,” Hockridge said.
“The second balloon loop is a vital component of this project, allowing faster, more efficient coal loading at the terminal.”
The $385 million Northern Missing Link rail corridor is the cornerstone of the GAP expansion, which is one of the largest rail infrastructure projects in Queensland’s 145-year rail history.
The GAP project includes 69 kilometres of new track across the ‘Missing Link’ to join the existing Goonyella and Newlands systems, expansion and upgrading of existing track, and 15 new bridges along the Newlands rail system, including associated rail unloading infrastructure at the Abbot Point Coal Terminal
The start of track laying follows several months of design, engineering, earthworks, formation works, extensive drainage works, capping and other GAP-related works.
Trains are on schedule to commence operating across the Northern Missing Link from January 2012, with full project completion expected in June 2012.
When at full capacity, the GAP project will enable coal companies to double the coal tonnages that can be railed to the Abbot Point Coal Terminal to 50 million tonnes per annum.
Hockridge said the Northern Missing Link was a critical piece of national infrastructure that would help Australia meet growing global demand for coal exports.
“The Northern Missing Link is a well-timed, crucial investment in Queensland’s coal supply chain,” he said.
“It will significantly improve flexibility in the Goonyella and Newlands coal systems, allowing more coal to be moved to port more efficiently and, in turn, facilitating higher export revenue for the nation over the coming years.”
Hockridge said the GAP project provided a myriad benefits to QR National and its many stakeholders, particularly coal customers and local communities.
“For our coal customers, this expansion allows vastly increased flexibility to export coal and maximise growth options in line with market demand,” he said.
“In addition, the project is injecting millions of dollars into local economies in Central Queensland, with an estimated 800 jobs created over the two year life of the project.”