The Federal Government welcomed the release of the Hunter Valley Corridor Capacity Improvement Strategy and ARTC’s decision to assess the coal industry’s needs.
The updated strategy is expected to contribute about $A375 million worth of capacity enhancements during the next five years.
ARTC chief executive David Marchant said the corporation was committed to delivering increased rail capacity ahead of demand and ensuring value for money for the coal industry.
Key changes in the strategy include an updated timeframe for capacity upgrades to 2011; raised coal export volume forecasts from 120 million tonnes to 145Mt per annum; and revised analysis to accommodate volume growth in a cost-effective manner.
“While there is a significant increase in the asset base in the strategy it is expected that average access charges will actually decline due to the large increases in volume,” Marchant said.
Federal Transport Minister Warren Truss said the ability to efficiently move coal from mines to port was essential for the coal industry to remain globally competitive.
ARTC has advised the Government of an expected decline in average access charges to rail operators because of increasing coal volumes.
Truss said the corporation had already demonstrated its responsiveness to the needs of the industry by achieving a new monthly coal haulage record of 7.6Mt in October 2005 and by successfully integrating Queensland Rail into the Hunter Valley operation.
He said close cooperation between the coal industry, ARTC and rail operators through the Hunter Valley Coal Chain Logistics Team was vital to achieving these record tonnages.
“The need to have the most effective transport system possible for coal in the Hunter Valley will be even more important in the future as the mining operations move further up the valley, increasing the length of the rail haul,” Truss said.