The resumption of rail freight operations to western and south-west Queensland that directly service domestic transfer hubs and export/import facilities at Toowoomba and Brisbane could be realised in the coming year, the Darling Downs and South West Queensland (DDSWQ) Council of Mayors heard last week in Toowoomba.
Private rail and logistics firms outlined potential commercial activities to the Rail Forum that was convened by the Mayoral group, which has member councils from Bulloo, Quilpie, Paroo, Murweh, Balonne, Maranoa, Goondiwindi, Western Downs, Southern Downs and Toowoomba.
DDSWQ Council of Mayors chair Cr Paul Antonio, who also is the Toowoomba Region Mayor, said the presentations painted a very positive future for the return of viable rail freight services to the member councils’ communities.
“The updates are a welcome and positive sign that private firms are prepared to come to the market to pitch for business where they see opportunities in the long term,” Mayor Antonio said.
“Some of this renewed interest is driven by the investment in the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail project, which will have both direct and complementary benefits for customers across our region.
“Many existing rail lines, especially those in the western and south-western parts of the state, have been neglected for decades. This has led to a reduction in service for these productive areas and an increased reliance on road transport, which has placed added pressure on our roads.
“The DDSWQ Council of Mayors previously has supported calls for major investment in essential rail infrastructure and while this is flagged for the future, there is no time like the present to help unlock the economic returns that exist along these rail routes, even given the effects of the prolonged drought.
“Our push for greater rail investment marries perfectly with calls by the Reserve Bank of Australia, industry, business and higher levels of government for greater spending on nation-building infrastructure.
“The Mayors’ collective will and vision is to see a truly integrated rail network delivering produce to the Port of Brisbane, Brisbane Airport and other distribution facilities around the newly named Toowoomba Trade Gateway (formerly the Toowoomba Enterprise Hub), including Toowoomba Wellcamp Airport and Interlink SQ at Charlton.
“Producers and business operators as far west as Quilpie and Thargomindah and all points in between are eyeing a future where rail could unlock new freight routes and a host of untapped markets.
“Road transport will remain a key part in efficient freight movements, particularly given the move to greater use of container loads for many commodities.”
Mayor Antonio said the Rai Forum reinforced the value of collectively dealing with new business operators.
“As a group representing around a quarter of Queensland, we wield far greater influence and stand a better chance of achieving results by working together for our mutual benefit.”
Aside from the rail freight update, the Mayors also heard presentations about advances in satellite phone technology and associated monitoring capabilities (and the potential for an open cellular phone network), recent moves by the Queensland Department of Premier and Cabinet placing new regional advocates across the state, including Toowoomba and various policy updates from Local Government Association of Queensland representatives.
It’s a Bloke Thing prostate cancer education program facilitator Ruth Logan took advantage of the captive audience to outline her recent education activities and discuss opportunities for the Mayors to encourage men to ensure they book appropriate health checks.
Caption: Goondiwindi Regional Council Mayor Cr Graeme Scheu (left), Balonne Shire Mayor Cr Richard Marsh, Paroo Shire Council Mayor and DDSWQ deputy chair Cr Lindsay Godfrey, Toowoomba Region Mayor and DDSWQ chair Cr Paul Antonio, Quilpie Shire Council Mayor Cr Stuart Mackenzie and Western Downs Regional Council Deputy Mayor Cr Andrew Smith at the quarterly Mayors’ meeting held in Toowoomba.