Queensland Rail crews have worked around the clock to reopen the North Coast Rail Line south of Townsville yesterday afternoon, re-establishing an important freight connection for the region as major flood recovery efforts get underway.
Queensland Rail's CEO Nick Easy said reopening the line between Townsville and Brisbane was a positive step forward and had allowed the movement of freight goods and supplies in and out of the region by train to recommence.
The first freight train departed Townsville at 2.05pm yesterday (Saturday 9 February), which was loaded with meat which had been awaiting export, while the first freight train into Townsville at 5.30pm was loaded with groceries for the North Queensland area.
"While there is still a long way to go in recovering the entire Queensland Rail network - including north of Townsville and along the Mount Isa Line - it's good news that we've been able to return the freight connection south of Townsville and recommence the delivery of much needed goods and supplies as the region's recovery works get underway," Mr Easy said.
"Queensland Rail repair crews have been out since Thursday assessing and repairing wash-outs and scouring where possible between Townsville and Ayr.
"Yesterday repair trains were able to run along the line placing fresh ballast and reconditioning the track before it was declared fit for day time running at 1.30pm Saturday afternoon.
"Freight trains have continued running today and this morning our teams have declared the line fit for 24 hour running.
"This is Queensland's principal freight line, transporting everything from containerised and industrial freight, to minerals, livestock, bulk commodities like sugar and grain, and general household items. We know how important this freight connection is for North Queensland, which is why our crews have worked around the clock these past days to return this section of track as quickly as possible.
"It's a positive step to have freight moving in and out of Townsville again, as we turn our attention to other areas of the network which continue to be impacted by this unprecedented flooding event.
"Tracks between Townsville and Ingham and west on the Mount Isa Line between Stuart and Cloncurry continue to be impacted.
"Many sections of the Mount Isa Line in particular, are still unable to be accessed by our crews due to the extent of the flooding.
"Repair crews will attend impacted sites once flood waters start to recede and it is safe to do so, including working with Pacific National and Glencore on recovery works for the flood impacted freight train at Nelia.
"A time frame for the opening of lines between Townsville and Ingham and Townsville and Mount Isa is still unknown, however we will continue to keep the community updated as more information becomes available.
"Spirit of Queensland passenger services north of Townsville and Inlander passenger services on the Mount Isa Line are continuing to experiencing cancellations and impacts due to this unprecedented weather event. Where possible, replacement road coaches will be arranged, however this is subject to road conditions which are also currently impacted in many locations.
"Customers booked on a Queensland Rail service in the affected areas are encouraged to visit www.queenslandrailtravel.com.au or call Queensland Rail Travel on 1800 803 009."