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MORE trucks carrying huge volumes of freight could be forced on to the Bruce Highway unless $2.5 billion is found to upgrade the railway line between Brisbane and Cairns.
An independent report – obtained under Right to Information laws – into the North Coast Line found upgrades including repairing 61 ageing timber bridges, floodproofing works and duplicating key sections of track were needed to ensure the line remained a viable freight route.
“There is no DO NOTHING investment strategy for the North Coast Line if it is to stay open, and provide a meaningful role in the freight logistics task,” the report by Ranbury consultants said.
It also found a failure to invest in the line would reduce it “to irrelevance in the contestable freight market” and more cargo would be delivered using trucks.
The report recommends $2.5 billion be spent on improving the line over a 10-year period.
It also says about three million tonnes of freight was put on the line, travelling both north and south, in the 2013-14 financial year.
Engineers Australia Queensland infrastructure spokesman Chris Warnock said a huge numbers of trucks would be funnelled on to the Bruce Highway unless more was invested in the railway.
“It’s already one of the more dangerous roads in Australia, so by moving all that freight on to it is only going to make it worse,” he said.
“The North Coast Line also plays a crucial role in connecting regional Queensland because places like Rockhampton regularly get cut off by road because of flooding but supplies on rail can often still get through.
“This rail line is absolutely vital to Queensland and we need to make sure it receives investment, particularly to improve some of the poor alignments and repair many of the old bridges.”
State Transport Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said the department was developing an action plan for the key freight and passenger rail line.
“This will provide an overview and approach around how to guide future development and operational enhancements along more than 1600km of track between Nambour and Cairns,” he said.
“Currently all trains must travel through a congested single four-track corridor in the CBD, and if we don’t build Cross River Rail … we will be unable to run any extra trains on the North Coast Line even if we duplicate the track between Beerburrum and Landsborough.”
Opposition transport spokesman and Member for Glass House Andrew Powell said more trucks would be forced to use the already congested Bruce Highway unless major upgrades to the North Coast line were completed.
“We need to invest in both rail and road infrastructure to make sure our transport network works more efficiency and we reduce congestion on our major highways like the Bruce,” he said.
This article first appeared on www.couriermail.com.au
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