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Up to three million tonnes of freight could be moved on the Adelaide to Darwin railway each year, it was claimed last night.
Bruce McGowan, chief executive of railway owner and operator FreightLink, said the company was confident of reaching its annual target of 800,000 tonnes within three years.
But he said several potential Territory mining projects could boost export freight by up to two million tonnes a year.
"It is based on a whole lot of feasibility studies that are being done," he told the Northern Territory News last night.
"Of course the problem is that you don't know if those studies are going to come to fruition."
Mr McGowan said the most significant of these was the planned Bootu Creek mine, 120km north of Tennant Creek, which aims to export up to 500,000 tonnes of manganese annually from next year.
"There are also several other mines at Tennant Creek and some closer to Darwin that people have asked us for freight rates to help them understand the potential for their business," he said.
Mr McGowan said the opportunities depended on the development of a bulk-loading facility at East Arm Port.
Mr McGowan said the opportunities depended on the "It is very important from the rail's perspective that bulk-handling facilities are provided at the port," he said.
The Territory Government announced $7 million in the 2004 Budget for such a facility -- pending an agreement with one of the major mining projects.
Mr McGowan told more than 400 international delegates at the Conference on Railway Engineering 2004 in Darwin yesterday that the first five months of operations had exceeded expectations.
"FreightLink has experienced an incredibly exciting and even busier start to operations since that first historic journey in January," he said.
"FreightLink trains have conveyed more than 130,000 customer tonnes out of Adelaide and more than 50,000 out of Darwin.
"That figure places us well within reach of achieving the target of 350,000 tonnes of domestic freight we set ourselves in the first year of operation."
Northern Territory News/News Interactive
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