Qld's two-corridor solution gains plaudits

QR NATIONAL and Indian giant GVK – which is developing the $6.4 billion Alpha project in Queensland’s Galilee Basin with Hancock Coal – have welcomed the Queensland government’s announcement of two rail corridors to service new and existing coal mines in the Galilee and Bowen basins.
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Queensland Development, Infrastructure and Planning Minister Jeff Seeney.

Lou Caruana

An east-west corridor will see an extension of the existing QR National network from near Moranbah to the central Galilee Basin and will provide links to coal ports at Abbot Point, Dalrymple Bay and Dudgeon Point.

A north-south rail corridor will be defined along the proposed GVK-Hancock Coal alignment to facilitate the construction of new standard gauge rail lines to link the proposed large-scale, vertically integrated mining operations in the southern Galilee Basin to Abbot Point.

For the mines proposed for the southern Galilee area the government will define a corridor that straddles the alignment proposed by GVK-Hancock Coal for a new 500km standard gauge line north to Abbot Point.

The GVK-Hancock is planning to spend $3 million to build a $495 million rail link to Abbot Point if its project gains federal government approval.

GVK chairman and managing director GVK Reddy said: "We welcome the state government’s decision to approve the construction of the GVK rail corridor from the Galilee Basin to the port of Abbot Point.

“This investment will deliver wider benefits as it provides both initial and additional capacity to satisfy both Galilee and Bowen Basin rail capacity requirements in the future. This, combined with the continued investment in the strategic rail corridor, underlines the government's commitment to develop rail infrastructure for many decades to come."

Queensland Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney said the government would ensure third party access to each of these corridors and no proponent would be disadvantaged.

"There will be the option for other large mining proposals to co-locate their own new railway lines within the north-south corridor should they consider that to be more commercially viable,” he said.

The two corridors would replace eight different railway proposals under the previous Bligh government, he said.

"This outcome is a win for the mine proponents, local communities, landholders and the environment," Seeney said.

QR National chief executive Lance Hockridge said the Queensland government’s decision would facilitate a sensible, staged approach to expansion of the Bowen and Galilee basins which would better match capacity to demand and minimise impact on the environment and regional and rural communities.

QR National will expand the existing brownfields rail system to facilitate staged development of both basins.

He said this expansion would be undertaken in consultation with customers to ensure alignment with their development plans and to support growth of the Queensland resources sector.

“The first stage will be to expand the current capacity on the Goonyella/Newlands corridors by at least 25 million tonnes per annum to 75Mtpa by duplicating sections of Goonyella to Abbot Point (GAP),” Hockridge said.

“QR National will also accelerate feasibility studies to examine expanding GAP, including duplication, to accommodate potential demand from miners.

“The scalability of the network allows for capacity of more than 200Mtpa. Part of our design of GAP was to accommodate flexibility for future growth and expandability in line with demand as the Queensland resource sector grows.

“As part of the initial expansion work QR National is committing to construction of a deviation around the township of Collinsville to minimise the impact on local residents.”

Seeney told state parliament the two corridors were the only areas in which the state government was likely to use its powers to compulsorily acquire land for new rail lines.

"After exhaustive negotiations with all the mine proponents I believe that the responsible development of the Galilee Basin can be achieved by defining an east-west extension of the QRN network and a north-south corridor to facilitate a new standard gauge line," he said.

"The government will work towards declaring state development areas to define these two preferred corridors within which the government's powers of compulsory land acquisition can be exercised to bring about our clearly stated policy outcomes of a coordinated approach to railway development.

"The east-west extension is currently being developed by QRN and Adani and provides the best option for a staged development of mine, rail and port capacity for the Galilee Basin in the short term.

"A major increase in tonnages can be carried on this extension and the existing network.

The government will also support an expansion of capacity on the existing QRN alignment north to Abbot Point.

"It will be the preferred transport corridor for proposed developments and expansions in the northern Bowen Basin and will provide a long awaiting deviation around Collinsville," Seeney said.

The government will also support the development of coal-line standard for the existing rail line from Alpha to Emerald.

Hockridge welcomed the state government support for QR National’s proposal for staged development of a west to east common corridor and supporting north-south connections which connect new Galilee mines to the existing coal network near North Goonyella mine.

“By leveraging the expandability of the existing rail network in this way, QR National will be able to efficiently match rail capacity upgrades with planned mine production ramp-ups,” he said.

“In line with this approach the state has asked QR National to also examine development of the Queensland Rail-owned Emerald line, in order to service the southern Galilee both in terms of outgoing coal tonnages and incoming freight such as fuel.”

He said more than 800 hundred jobs would be created as part of the first stage expansion with the potential for more than 5000 thousand direct and indirect jobs with the complete rail and port capacity expansion.