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DEVELOPMENT groups are calling for a long-term operating and funding model for the Townsville to Mount Isa rail line, warning the region could lose the billion-dollar logistics and minerals trade to the Northern Territory.
Townsville Enterprise, Mount Isa to Townsville Economic Zone, rail users and Mount Isa MP Robbie Katter will meet with Treasurer Curtis Pitt in Brisbane today as part of an ongoing push to have both major parties commit to an upgrade of the line.
Townsville Enterprise director Michael McMillan said plans for a new rail line between Mount Isa and Tennant Creek, to connect the North West Minerals Province with Darwin port, was a “shot across the bow” of the Queensland Government.
He said the condition of the Great Northern Line, between Townsville and Mount Isa, was an impediment to growth.
The Northern Territory Government, with funding from the Federal Government and the involvement of Queensland, is investigating the Mount Isa to Tennant Creek rail project.
The project is expected to deliver significant benefits by increasing commodity exports out of the Northern Territory, boosting general freight between the NT and Queensland and enhancing development in the Tennant Creek and Mount Isa areas.
The condition of the antiquated Queensland line is raising fears North Queensland could be the big loser by diverting too much trade and activity to Darwin.
Townsville Enterprise says while the Federal Government pledged $150 million to a new rail corridor into Townsville port, the 2016 State Infrastructure Plan has allocated no funding to the corridor over the budget forward estimates.
It says a lack of reinvestment in the rail line has created inefficiencies, moving cargo from the line to road.
Mr Katter said restrictions on rail freight terms applied by the Queensland Competition Authority was accelerating the flight to road transport.
He said whether the Labor and Liberal parties considered the rail line a revenue earner or industry enabler was the “burning question”.
While a line linking Mount Isa with Darwin would be “nation-building infrastructure” and unlock resources, he said the “very serious problems” with the Great Northern Line should not be forgotten.
“Townsville had better get interested in this,” Mr Katter said. “It’s a burning issue for the North and for Townsville. It’s been left unheeded.”
This article first appeared on www.townsvillebulletin.com.au
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