ROBBIE Katter will take a firsthand look at the situation involving a worrying increase in the number of ore-carrying bulk haulage road trains on the road between Mount Isa and Townsville this week.
The State Member for Mount Isa will investigate the impact of increased road freight on the Flinders Highway after mining companies and rail freight provider Aurizon were unable to come to a contract agreement.
“I have safety fears for those travelling on the Flinders Highway with the significant increase of heavy haulage vehicles using road instead of rail,” he said.
“The truckies themselves do a great job of keeping the roads safe but too much congestion and load on this road will create a problem.”
“I’ve been told by regular users of the Flinders Highway there’s more than three times the volume of heavy haulage vehicles since Glencore were forced to put their product on the road.”
“Truck drivers are some of the most skilful and safety-conscious in the country, however, I’m also worried about damage to the road and the increased level of maintenance that will cost taxpayers to keep it up to scratch.”
“The Government needs to step and recognise what is going to be done to our roads when bulk haulage isn’t being taken to Townsville on the rail.”
Mr Katter said rail is generally best suited to bulk consignments so there should be a significant cost advantage by using rail.
“I’ve pushed hard for more investment on the rail line and I was pleased there was $58 million invested by Queensland Rail this financial year,” he said.
“The Flinders Highway is a great piece of infrastructure, but we have the Mount Isa to Townsville rail line that is being under-utilized.”
Mr Katter said there was on obvious problem if one large rail user was putting more ore-carrying trucks on the road because of rail user charges.
“Figures published by the federal government’s Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) show the cost of moving 1 tonne of freight by road over a distance of 1 kilometre (known as cost per tonne kilometre) is 7.5 cents for road, more than double the 3.5 cents for rail,” he said.
“The Government is milking the rail users with charges (still government owned) increasing by around 70% in the past three years, pushing some transporters off the rail and onto the road, which is much more inefficient.”
“The Government needs to reassess its pricing structure so that the rail line can be an industry enabler.”
“We’ve already seen 29 jobs lost in Hughenden from Aurizon and if the seriousness of this situation isn’t recognised, and action isn’t taken fast, we will see more jobs and industry suffering.”