Rising Tide spokesman Steve Phillips told the ABC it was the fourth such protest action this week to highlight the group's concern over the massive expansion of coal projects as part of its “Stopping the Australian Coal Export Boom” strategy.
"Our concern is with the coal rush in general in New South Wales," he reportedly said.
"This is the fourth in a week of protests against the expanding coal industry in NSW, targeting mines and rail and port infrastructure, which are all booming at the moment."
Yesterday, the group interrupted construction of the Maitland to Minimbah third track rail project.
Australian Coal Association chief executive Dr Nikki Williams said it was unfortunate that the persistent campaign against coal was “often loose with the truth and almost always free of accountability”
“The claim made today by Rising Tide that the industry rail infrastructure is being paid for by the Australian taxpayer is disingenuous and misinformed,” she said.
The Hunter Valley coal rail network is managed by the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) as part of a 60-year lease which began in September 2004.
ARTC is a company under the Corporations Act whose shares are owned by the Australian Government. ARTC undertakes expansion projects in partnership with specialist engineering and construction companies to deliver the Hunter Valley Corridor Capacity Strategy.
Coal producers pay for the network through fees and charges to provide a commercial rate of return, determined by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in 2011 as part of the Hunter Valley Coal Network Access Undertaking.
Coal producers enter into take-or-pay contracts to gain access to the network. These contracts underwrite the investment in expansion projects, as coal producers are obliged to pay whether they use their contracted access to the network or not.
ARTC is also obliged to provide and maintain priority for passenger services under the Transport Administration Act 1988 (NSW).
“Far from being a subsidy, taxpayer funds invested in the Hunter Valley coal rail network will deliver a strong and reliable dividend to Australian taxpayers for the economic life of the infrastructure,” Williams said.
“The industry also delivers substantial returns through royalties and other taxes, payments to Australian service providers and through the 48,000 people employed directly in coal mining.”