Speaking at the 2006 Major Projects Conference in Brisbane, Beattie said the Government supported the joint venture to develop the Dawson Valley Railway, which will provide a new 700km export-focused rail freight corridor between Toowoomba and Gladstone.
“The project, involving a consortium comprising Queensland Rail, the Australian Transport and Energy Corridor, Dawson Valley Railway, Industry Funds Management and Xstrata Coal, will provide an open access system with enough capacity to meet demand from all potential users," Beattie said.
“The 207km link will be a vital piece of new infrastructure for Queensland, developing the so-called 'Southern Missing Link' between Wandoan and Banana.”
Deputy Premier and State Development Minister Anna Bligh and Transport Minister Paul Lucas said the new railway boded well for the state's future economic development.
Lucas said the new link would do for southern inland Queensland what the Blackwater, Goonyella and Newlands systems have done in the Bowen Basin.
“Over the term of the Beattie Government, QR's coal haulage has gone from nearly 104 million tonnes to almost 154Mt with our total coal mine production in Queensland worth $16 billion to our economy.
“Not only will this project bring enormous benefits to coal development, we're also keen to examine the possible strategic benefits from its potential linkages. For example, it could link with the possible inland railway under consideration now by the Federal Government to form an ultimate Melbourne to Gladstone standard gauge link.
“The Government understands the importance of compatibility between the two projects and will explore the requirements for their future connectivity pending any commonwealth government decision to commit to an inland rail," Lucas said.
“As a related project, Queensland Transport will be taking positive steps to ensure that the project is 'ready' for standard gauge in the future.
“I'm not saying that the substantial cost of putting a third rail should be done upfront, particularly without any commitment from the Federal Government for Toowoomba to Melbourne standard gauge rail, but we would review closely whether to make the sleepers dual gauge capable," Lucas said.
Beattie said the project would help ensure the infrastructure was in place to exploit a huge natural resource.
“Coal is an important part of our economy and Queensland's coal exports were worth about $11 billion in 2005-2006 and accounted for one-third of our state's merchandise export income.
“This year, according to the most recent figures from the Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Water, we're on track to earn about $16 billion, and today's announcement only enhances Queensland's position as one of the world's major coal exporters," he said.
Beattie said the Coordinator-General and Queensland Transport would work closely with the Dawson Valley Railway consortium to identify a suitable route and acquire the corridor for the new railway.
“Although a lot of work still needs to be done, the railway could be operational within five years," he said.