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QUEENSLAND Rail has unveiled new plans for 10 coal-train sidings as part of a $130-million train fuelling and maintenance facility at Hexham.
With the federally owned Australian Rail Track Corporation planning to build five of its own sidings at Hexham, the QR National plan could take to 15 the total number of sidings to be built beside the main northern railway.
The proposal by QR - which changes its name next month to Aurizon Limited - is part of a push by coal planners to move locomotive storage and refuelling out of the port wherever possible. QR plans to build the centre in two stages over two years.
It expects to employ about 30 people to service about 12 trains a day by 2014-15, with the number of trains doubling to 24 a day by 2020.
The southern end of the Hexham site, which is next to the Hexham Swamp Nature Reserve, was used until the 1980s as a coal washery and wagon storage area.
Hexham Swamp Rehabilitation Project Committee member Dennis Hirst said QR's environmental offsets were inadequate - just the parts of the site it wasn't using for its rail sidings, fuel facility and rail workshops.
"QR was rebuffed when it proposed earlier versions of this in 2008 and 2010, but this still ignores all the work and effort that has gone into rehabilitating Hexham swamp," he said.
Documents on display with the NSW Department of Planning show QR plans to elevate the site above the 1-100 flood-plain level using 380,000 cubic metres of fill.
As well as the 10 new rail lines, the project will include storage tanks for 400,000 litres of fuel and buildings to "provision" locomotives and maintain coal wagons.
Road vehicles will reach the site from a new access road to be built from the Tarro interchange.
QR says the project will help lift the Hunter's coal export capacity to an estimated 180 million tonnes next year.
On current demand, Newcastle coal exports will total about 132 million tonnes this year.
The project is on exhibition until December 21.
This article first appeared on www.theherald.com.au
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