ENSURING secure access to the Port of Townsville is one objective of a $6m upgrade to the Mount Isa rail line, improving flood resilience on the critical freight route.

Transport minister Mark Bailey joined Mt Isa Mayor Danielle Slade to make the announcement and also announce that $20m had been accessed from the Queensland government’s $80m, four-year incentive scheme, encouraging freight operators and the resource industry to use the rail line, connecting the mineral-rich province to Townsville Port.

Mr Bailey said economies around the world had been hit hard by COVID-19.

“But because of our strong health response so far, we’ve been able to start delivering our plan for economic recovery, which for the north west means bolstering our freight lines, encouraging investment and creating more jobs,” Mr Bailey said.

The $6m upgrade is to take place along roughly a 320km of the line, starting just west of Hughenden and continuing right through to near Cloncurry.

Member for Townsville Scott Stewart said about 10 workers from each of three regional Queensland businesses would be involved in the project.

 “The rail line provides a critical connection for resources companies to the Port of Townsville which is a major economic driver for the city,” he said.

Work is expected to take place along the line until October, and follows major repairs last year following significant flood damage.

Mr Bailey said in addition to investing in more resilient rail infrastructure, the Queensland government was also encouraging more freight line usage through its incentive scheme.

“Queensland’s North West Mineral Province contains about 75% of the state’s base metal and minerals, including copper, lead, zinc, silver, gold and phosphate deposits,” he said.

“Since we introduced the scheme, more than four billion gross tonne kilometres of eligible freight has moved along line to the Port of Townsville.”

Glencore Queensland metals chief operating officer Matt O’Neill said their North Queensland operations had a long history of moving product and commodities via the Mount Isa Line and through the Townsville Port to overseas markets.

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“The distance to transport products in North Queensland is significant and transportation makes up a large portion of the cost of delivery to our customers, both in the domestic and export markets,” he said.

“We are pleased to see this scheme encouraging a shift towards rail as a real alternative to road transport.”

Queensland Resources Council chief executive Ian Macfarlane said the incentive scheme would help exports at a time when the State needed them the most.

“QRC’s own recovery strategy pointed to the Mount Isa rail line as a key economic corridor,” Mr Macfarlane said.

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