TWO recent developments have improved prospects of more efficient refrigerated container rail freight to the Port of Brisbane – easily the largest departure point for beef exports from Australia.
The Queensland Government recently announced a project to lower the floor of century-old tunnels passing through the Toowoomba range, west of Brisbane, which will allow full-sized reefers from inland centres like the Darling Downs to shift to port for the first time.
Queensland Rail’s tunnel floor lowering works have commenced in the region, signalling the culmination of five-years of advocacy by Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise.
Eleven rail tunnel floors will be lowered throughout the Toowoomba Range and Little Liverpool Range in coming months. The refurbishment further opens up the region for the proposed Inland Rail route, which the Federal Government announced in September last year.
Up until now, full-sized refrigerated or frozen containers of beef from beef plants on the Darling Downs have had to shift to port by road.
TSBE supply chain general manager, Lance MacManus, said the project would ultimately ensure rail was a more attractive and viable option for all industries that use the standard 40-foot cube freight shipping containers to transport goods to the Port of Brisbane.
Oakey Beef Exports general manager Pat Gleeson welcomed the news, as an important part of a move to more efficient container freight.
He said there were still some issues to resolve to clear the way for unfettered port access by rail for the inland region, in particular weight load limits on rail bridges below the range.
“Currently there are weight limits, meaning freight trains have to be configured a certain way, using smaller containers,” he said.
Mr Gleeson said NH Foods had been in discussion with the state government about establishing a rail ‘hub’ at Oakey for a variety of freight purposes, to fully-utilise rail to transport commodities down the range.
Other inland meat companies had expressed interest in using such a hub, should it be developed, he said. Other agricultural users could include containerised grain, and the proposed powdered milk facility near Toowoomba, together with fertiliser and other commodities coming the other way.
About 18 months ago, Oakey Beef opened its new rail freight livestock receival facility near Oakey, but is now keen to extend the rail utilisation to chilled and frozen beef leaving the plant for export.
Closer to Brisbane, a jointly funded $1.5 million study announced last week will look at the feasibility of options for improved rail freight connections to the Port of Brisbane from Acacia Ridge – a project that many believe will be critical to unlocking the full economic benefits of the Inland Rail project now under construction.
One of the missing links to the original inland rail project proposal was a dedicated freight rail connection to Port of Brisbane.
The economic significance of establishing a dedicated freight rail link to the port was recently reconfirmed by the decision of Infrastructure Australia (IA) to again include the project as a high priority initiative on the 2018 Infrastructure Priority List.
A separate IA report on corridor protection released last year confirmed that potential savings of $66m could be realised if governments act quickly to protect the corridor needed for the construction of a dedicated freight rail link from the Inland Rail at Acacia Ridge, just south of Brisbane, to the Port of Brisbane.
- To access the full report, click here.