Captain Cook Highway reopens as Far North Queensland’s road and rail recovery continues (Ministerial statement)



Captain Cook Highway (before)

The Captain Cook Highway between Cairns and Port Douglas is now open to traffic.

Palmerston Highway single-lane construction is making strong progress, with reopening expected mid-February.

Major progress has also been made on the recovery of the Kuranda Range with 39 of the 61 damaged sites now cleared.

The Captain Cook Highway between Buchans Point and Oak Beach has reopened after major recovery and repair efforts following ex-Tropical Cyclone Jasper.

From today, road users can travel between Cairns and Port Douglas via the Captain Cook Highway.

The reopening reconnects local communities ahead of the school year and allows freight and other critical supplies to move between Cairns and Port Douglas. Several single-lane sections of the road will remain under traffic control. 

In order to reopen this significantly impacted part of the Captain Cook Highway, recovery crews had to clear a large number of landslips and remove significant amounts of mud and debris.

All of the smaller slips have been cleared with about 75 per cent of the larger slips cleared and ready for stabilisation activities if required.

A total of 48 water structures (culverts) were either blocked with debris or required emergency repairs, with emergency works undertaken on about 70 per cent of the culverts so far.

Road users are advised to expect some delays due to traffic control in single lane sections of the Captain Cook Highway and are reminded to check for the latest road updates.

Meanwhile, Queensland Rail crews are working tirelessly to bring back Far North Queensland’s most iconic rail service, the Kuranda Scenic Rail to full timetable, following substantial damage caused by ex-tropical cyclone Jasper.

Despite the mammoth scope of recovery and ongoing rain in the tropical Far North Queensland region, major progress has been made thanks to the hard work of QR crews and contractors.

QR is working with the local community, tourism partners and all government agencies to potentially run a Kuranda Scenic Rail service on the weekends by late February, weather permitting.

Separately, works to construct a temporary single-lane access on the critical freight route Palmerston Highway between Crawfords Lookout and Junction Road are progressing.

The Palmerston Highway sustained significant damage including major pavement slips. While the temporary single-lane route will restore access, repairs to the highway are expected to take an extended period of time.

Quotes attributable to the Acting Transport and Main Roads Minister and Digital Services Minister Scott Stewart:

“As we work to reconnect Far North Queensland, the reopening of the Captain Cook Highway between Cairns and Port Douglas is a huge milestone for people and businesses in this region.

“From today, parents who use this part of the road to take their children to school and businesses who rely on this road to deliver goods and services that enable our local economy will be able to use this route once more.

“I would like to extend my sincere thanks to the people of Far North Queensland for their patience and support as we have worked to reopen this critical part of the highway.

“Meanwhile, Queensland Rail crews have been working as safely and quickly as possible to get services back up and running.

“Significant progress has been made onsite with 39 of the 61 damaged sites now cleared to allow access for work trains to begin removing soil from the area.

“I’d like to thank the many people from the Department of Transport and Main Roads, Queensland Rail, our partners, suppliers, and local councils for their tremendous efforts in reopening this part of the road ahead of schedule.”

Quotes attributable to Member for Barron River Craig Crawford: 

“TMR and QR crews have performed a mammoth task in the face of continued wet weather across the region.

“The re-opening of the Captain Cook is a significant milestone which will mean easier travel and access for so many, including our vital agriculture and tourism industries.”

Quotes attributable to Member for Cook Cynthia Lui:

“Many people have given up their holidays, weekends and time with their families to deliver for the people of Far North Queensland. Everyone appreciates their efforts.

“The re-opening of the Captain Cook is of great benefit to many, including the many families making the trek back to school next week.”

Quotes attributable to Queensland Rail CEO Kat Stapleton: 

“Behind the scenes, we are investigating multiple ways to repair the range, working with key stakeholders and the community to find the best long-term sustainable solution.

“By late February, with the implementation of a track deviation, we hope to be able to run one return Kuranda Scenic Rail service on the weekends. This will allow our crews access to the track during the week to continue works to future-proof the rail corridor from extreme weather.

“We expect that our long-term works will be completed in late April to allow us to return to our full timetable, but we will continue to keep the community informed of any updates. Particularly, if recovery efforts are further hindered due to heavy rain or other severe weather events.

“I’d like to thank our Queensland Rail staff, contractors and emergency services who have helped to date, and who are continuing to help with the ongoing recovery.”


For up-to-date information about works on the state-controlled network call 13 19 40 or visit

For further details contact Queensland Rail Corporate Affairs on:

Phone: 07 3072 2180