QR National unveiled a new vital transport link for the Queensland coal industry this week, opening its $1.1 billion Goonyella to Abbot Point (GAP) Expansion project in the northern Bowen Basin coalfields.
Acting Premier, Treasurer and Minister for State Development and Trade Andrew Fraser and QR National Chairman John Prescott officially opened the new rail infrastructure at an event at Suttor Developmental Road Bridge, 100 kilometres north of Moranbah.
QR National customers, employees and dignitaries gathered to celebrate the project and watch the historic first journey of a loaded coal train on the newly-constructed Northern ‘Missing’ Link.
Mr Prescott said QR National had created an extraordinary growth opportunity for the Australian resources industry by bridging the 69 kilometre gap between the Goonyella and Newlands rail systems.
“We’ve created a capacity increase on the Newlands system of up to 50 million tonnes per year, as well as provided the platform for potential future expansions of 200 million tonnes and more,” he said.
“Through the successful delivery of major expansions like GAP, QR National is demonstrating its capability to play a central role in the continuing expansion of Australia’s resources sector.
“GAP underscores our ability to build major rail infrastructure, aligned to customer and market demand, on time and budget.”
Mr Prescott said the GAP project, in combination with QR National’s other committed expansions, would deliver an extra 70 million tonnes of rail capacity over the next three years.
“This means QR National’s Central Queensland Coal Network will have the capacity to move more than 300 million tonnes of coal per annum by 2015.”
QR National Managing Director and CEO Lance Hockridge said the GAP project supported thousands of jobs in the mining and construction industries and was a key driver for economic growth in regional Queensland.
“GAP is a genuine transformational project. It will create a step change in Queensland’s coal exports and generate significant stimulus for the economy,” he said.
“The Northern Missing Link had been on Queensland’s infrastructure wish-list for over three decades.”
Mr Hockridge said the 20-month construction of GAP was achieved a month ahead of schedule, despite the challenges of Queensland’s extraordinary wet weather in December 2010 and January 2011.
“QR National, together with our alliance partners, has weathered floods, fire, a cyclone and even a small earthquake to deliver one of the nation’s largest railway projects on budget and ahead of schedule.”
Executive Vice President Network Michael Carter said QR National had worked with alliance partners CoalConnect, Coal Stream, Aspect3 and Synergy to deliver the GAP project on behalf of five foundation customers, QCoal, Rio Tinto Coal, BMA, Middlemount Coal and Lake Vermont Resources.
“Construction of the Northern Missing Link was the central component of the GAP project, coupled with major upgrades to the existing Newlands and Goonyella coal systems,” he said.
Mr Carter said the GAP expansion had been initiated for two reasons – to support customers’ expansion requirements on the Goonyella system and to align with developments at the Abbot Point Coal Terminal.
“The GAP project enables up to 50 million tonnes of coal a year to be railed to the upgraded Abbot Point Coal Terminal, which is double the present capacity,” he said.
“Higher capacity 106-tonne wagons can also begin operating on the Newlands System, effectively increasing coal haulage volumes by almost 2,000 tonnes per train.”
Mr Carter said the project had been a windfall for regional communities with more than $12 million a week invested in Central Queensland over the two-year life of the project.
“Approximately 800 jobs were created during GAP’s construction, with additional jobs created in local communities servicing and supplying the work sites.”
Further work to finalise the GAP project will continue through to mid-2012, including completion of additional works on the Briaba section and upgrades to existing track in the Newlands system.