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MAJOR parties either do not understand or do not intend to fix the problems with the Mount Isa rail corridor, according to Katter’s Australian Party leader Robbie Katter.
Mr Katter also said talk of building a new rail line to link Mount Isa with Darwin’s port seemed ridiculous without fixing the Mount Isa to Townsville line.
He was commenting on Labor’s pledge of an extra $10 million a year for maintenance on the Mount Isa to Townsville line.
While much of the debate about the rail corridor has focused on the poor state of the line, Mr Katter said the more important issue was the pricing and regulatory arrangements which were strangling its use.
“It’s no point repairing the track if the cost of its use is prohibitive,” the Mount Isa MP said. “(Companies) are not using the track because the prices are too high.”
While government corporation Queensland Rail does not release freight rates, it is understood they are high at more than $20 a tonne.
Regulations applied by government agency the Queensland Competition Authority are said to prevent discounting on backloading, which would otherwise help boost use.
Mr Katter said it meant that any extra money spent on maintenance would only increase costs for users further, making the line even more uneconomic.
“The problem is the pricing. There’s plenty of capacity but more and more companies are progressively going to road transport rather than rail,” he said.
Meanwhile, speculation is mounting over the results of the Federal Government-funded pre-feasibility study into the proposed Mount Isa to Tennant Creek railway.
A cost-benefit analysis was a “priority recommendation” of the Government’s Joint Select Committee on Northern Australia in 2014. But the office of Northern Development Minister Senator Matt Canavan yesterday referred questions about the study to the office of Infrastructure and Transport Minister Darren Chester, who could not be contacted before publication.
This article first appeared on www.townsvillebulletin.com.au
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