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SOUTHEAST Queensland motorists are being increasingly forced to compete for road space with heavy vehicles bound for the Port of Brisbane.
A key agricultural group representing the grains industry has revealed ailing rail infrastructure between the Darling Downs and Brisbane has forced operators to turn to roads.
The rail problems to the port, the third biggest container facility in Australia, are likely to be adding to congestion on the much-maligned Ipswich Motorway.
In a submission to a federal parliamentary inquiry into road and rail freight transport, the Queensland Agricultural Merchants slammed rail links to the port.
"The Darling Downs is a rich agricultural production region with an enormous potential for export production, and unfortunately this potential cannot be fully realised due to the inability of Queensland Rail to provide the necessary infrastructure," the group said.
It follows major controversy over an infrastructure bottleneck at the Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal, near Mackay, which sparked the Transport and Regional Services inquiry.
The QAM said that because of rail limitations, Darling Downs farmers were transporting their goods by truck and having them packed at the port. "The impact on the road system structurally and on traffic congestion and safety has been significant and it is avoidable and unnecessary," the group said.
The QAM submission said Queensland Rail had imposed a weight limit of 21.75 tonnes on each container because of "ageing and under-capacity infrastructure".
The low weight restrictions were costing the industry $330 on every container.
"The net effect of the inability of QR to carry heavier containers is many fold but includes under-utilised packing houses on the Downs, a major increase in road transport of product from the Downs to Port of Brisbane, businesses finding it difficult to compete and the export of jobs from rural communities to Brisbane," the QAM said.
The State Government has admitted in a submission to the inquiry that its rail network was struggling, which was having a detrimental effect on urban congestion.
Transport Minister Paul Lucas yesterday said he was in discussions with Darling Downs industries about increasing rail capacity.
"We have tunnel alignments that are 100 years old that have height and width problems," he said.
Mr Lucas said an alternative rail corridor had been preserved but it would cost in excess of $1 billion to develop which was beyond the capacity of the state and local industries to fund alone.
But Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg said the QAM submission proved the State Government's neglect of infrastructure was damaging Queensland's ability to compete.
"Without adequate rail infrastructure, grain bound for export will have to be transported to the port by road, which just means more trucks thundering through the Darling Downs, Toowoomba and on to the already heavily congested Ipswich Motorway," he said.
The Courier Mail
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