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RECENTLY, Workers at Aurizon’s Longreach facility were visited by an Aurizon executive. He told them that on January 1, 2019 all their jobs will be gone.
In shock, the workers asked if the pending decision in the ACCC federal court case — due to be heard in November — might change this situation, they were told no. They were told the service will absolutely cease on January 1, 2019.
Closing this rail freight service will cripple western Queensland. This service is not just about livestock transport, it is also about the supply of essential goods-inwards to stock local businesses from food stores to hardware and more.
It also allows the safe and efficient transport of goods-inwards classified as hazardous and dangerous which are essential to daily life.
This is not a surprise decision.
I have been trying for years to get the Government to address it.
I can get no meaningful response from the Minister. I have asked if he has a plan to ensure a western rail freight service continues when Aurizon withdraws.
I have written to him suggesting a solution with Longreach becoming a central freight handling hub, receiving the inward rail freight and dispatching it to outlying communities by road. The Minister has not responded.
I asked the Deputy Premier, in August of 2016, whether she could assure Western Queenslanders they wouldn’t be adversely affected by Aurizon’s decision to sell their intermodal business. She fobbed off the question.
In May 2018, I asked the Transport Minister to ensure subsidised regional freight services would continue, regardless of Aurizon’s decision — he fobbed the question off.
And again in June and August, the Minister refused to give assurances, beyond "We have a plan …" that Western Queenslanders will have a freight service after January 1, 2019.
The Minister cannot just sweep this under the carpet.
There is a widespread and growing realisation in regional Queensland of the total dysfunction across our vital rail networks statewide.
Queensland needs a Government that can deliver a functioning regional rail network. A regional rail network that provides efficient logistics and optimal value for Queensland producers competing in international markets.
A regional rail network that supports the Queensland regional towns that rely on it for essential goods.
This article first appeared on www.weeklytimesnow.com.au
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