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FLOOD resilience will be bolstered on the Mount Isa to Townsville rail line with $6 million in works underway on a 320km stretch from Hughenden to Cloncurry.
Freight operators and the resource industry are being encouraged to use the line, with $20 million accessed from a state government incentive scheme aimed to make the route more cost effective.
Transport Minister Mark Bailey said the rail-line upgrade would support 30 jobs during construction, with workers to be based in Julia Creek and Richmond, providing an economic kick-along for those towns.
The works include bridge abutment and scour repairs in nearby drains and creeks, stonework including gabion flood protection to embankments, and further drainage and cleaning works as required.
Work is expected to take place until October, and follows major repairs last year, which saw a 400-strong Queensland Rail taskforce rebuild the line following unprecedented monsoonal weather.
Townsville MP Scott Stewart said about 10 workers from each of three regional Queensland businesses - Morton's Earthmoving, Townsville Earthmoving and Schwartz Excavations - will be involved in the project.
"About two thirds of the workers will stay in Julia Creek, while the rest will be accommodated in Richmond, and all the materials for the project will be sourced locally - providing a much needed injection for the community," Mr Stewart said.
"The rail line provides a critical connection for resources companies to the Port of Townsville which is a major economic driver for the city."
Mr Bailey said in addition to investing in more resilient rail infrastructure, the Palaszczuk government was also encouraging more freight line usage through its $80 million, four-year incentive scheme.
"Queensland's North West Mineral Province contains about 75 per cent of the state's base metal and minerals, including copper, lead, zinc, silver, gold and phosphate deposits," Mr Bailey said.
"Since we introduced the scheme, more than four billion gross tonne kilometres of eligible freight has moved along line to the Port of Townsville.
"This is an increase of more than one million in tonnage from the year prior to the scheme being introduced."
Glencore's Queensland Metals chief operating officer Matt O'Neill said their North Queensland operations had a long history of moving product and commodities via the Mount Isa line, from Mount Isa and Cloncurry to their Townsville copper refinery, and through the Townsville port to overseas markets.
"The distance to transport products in North Queensland is significant and transportation makes up a large portion of the cost of delivery to our customers, both in the domestic and export markets," Mr O'Neill said.
"We are pleased to see this scheme encouraging a shift towards rail as a real alternative to road transport along the Mount Isa rail corridor."
Queensland Resources Council chief executive Ian Macfarlane said the incentive scheme would help exports at a time when the State needed them the most.
"QRC's own recovery strategy pointed to the Mount Isa rail line as a key economic corridor for regional jobs and contributor to the billions of dollars in royalty taxes paid to government from our resource exports," Mr Macfarlane said.
MMG Dugald River welcomed the investment from the Queensland government to help make rail a more competitive option in North Queensland.
"At Dugald River, we remain open to exploring opportunities for optimising our supply chain, and commitments like this from the Queensland government will be of benefit to us and our local communities," an MMG spokesperson said.
This article first appeared on www.queenslandcountrylife.com.au
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