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The Queensland government says a half a billion dollar plan to reduce access charges and build a new container port in Townsville will boost mineral freight exports on the Mount Isa railway line.
Deputy Premier Jackie Trad said the investment would promote mining and exploration in the north west.
She said freight charges will be discounted to support improved five-year spending on the line maintenance budget on the lsa line which had already been announced.
"Our economy is stronger when we have a reliable supply of minerals for export," Ms Trad said. "We can improve reliability with better transport infrastructure."
Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey said they would also provide $80m in four years to reduce rail access charges to encourage the shift from road usage.
"The Mount Isa line is critical for North Queensland's economy, and making it more efficient and cost competitive is vital to support and grow resources exports in the region," Mr Bailey said.
Mr Bailey said almost 75% of freight on the line was wagons carrying minerals, fertiliser and acid. "Commercial operators pay access charges to Queensland Rail to use the line and industry has called on the government to make rail freight more competitive," he said.
"We will provide QR with $20m each year starting, from 1 July, to reduce rail access charges and will work with industry on implementation arrangements.
"The major repairs QR carried out on more than 200 sites across 300km of track following the monsoonal weather event earlier this year has cut almost an hour off the travel time between Mount Isa and Townsville, significantly improving efficiency and increasing capacity.
The state government wants to move freight from the road to rail.
"The Palaszczuk Government is investing $380 million over five years to maintain and improve the line, making the freight journey faster and more reliable."
Ms Trad said the North West Mineral Province contained about 75 per cent of the state's base metal and minerals, including copper, lead, zinc, silver, gold and phosphate deposits and the Port of Townsville was Australia's largest exporter of zinc, copper, lead and fertiliser.
"A number of mines are trucking minerals from the north west to the port, and the trains that are carrying minerals in shipping containers have to be unloaded at Stuart and then trucked 12km to the port," she said.
"Building a new common user rail freight terminal at the port will make the Mount Isa Line more attractive for exporters and take trucks off the Flinders Highway and Townsville's roads."
Queensland will contribute $30m towards the freight terminal's construction, with the Port of Townsville putting in $18m.
This article first appeared on www.northweststar.com.au
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