Voice of Real Australia: The problem with the rail when the vast brown earth is flooded | The Northwest Star

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Voice of Real Australia is a regular news bulletin from ACM, which has reporters in every state and territory. Sign up here to receive it by email, or here to forward it to a friend. Today’s was written by North West Star editor Derek Barry. The floods which closed the Stuart Highway and caused food shortages in the Northern Territory have prompted new calls for a rail link to Queensland. The Ghan railway line runs from Adelaide to Darwin and has been cut off by floodwaters in northern South Australia. Freight has started moving through the flooded section of the Stuart Freeway, but the opening is staggered under restricted conditions. Meanwhile, there is also a rail link from Townsville to Mount Isa known as the Inlander – although passenger service on this line has broken down over the years and has also been suspended due to COVID. However, there is an enticing missing link between Mount Isa and Tennant Creek that could have connected the two states and territories. The food shortage in Katherine has become so severe due to flooding in Central Australia that local chamber of commerce director Colin Abbott told the ABC this week he wanted to see a continuation of the line between Mount Isa and Territory. He is not the first person to suggest this, although Mr Abbott has mentioned Alice Springs as a possible terminus when Tennant Creek is a more direct route to Mount Isa, such as that taken by the Barkly Hwy between Queensland and NT and the north 620 km long. Gas pipeline that connects gas projects in the Northern Territory to the east coast. The Ghan has existed (at least from Adelaide to Alice Springs) since the 1880s, while Mount Isa has been connected to the east coast by rail since 1929, although it has not gone farther west since then. Indeed, there was no road worthy of the name between Queensland and the Territory until the 1940s when Australian governments finally had to seriously consider the problem of transporting soldiers, equipment and supplies to Darwin, the Japanese threat being all too real. It still needed America’s entry into the war after Pearl Harbor to make the road a reality (although it may not have felt the gratitude of the 70 black American soldiers who reportedly died of poisoning cyanide at Mount Isa after drinking a homemade beer made in disused mining cyanide barrels). A railroad was too far a transportation option for industrious Americans, but it does come up every now and then. Feasibility studies after the 2015 North Australia White Paper found it was only economically viable if funded by the mining industry, much like the Townsville Railway in Mount Isa a century ago. Yet there remains an appetite for rail extension like the Ghan to Darwin in 2004 while the Inland Rail project between Melbourne and Brisbane still appears to be on-going, albeit postponed to 2023. The missing link in the Queensland-NT rail line was one of the projects pushed by the Tennant Creek-Mount Isa Transboundary Commission representing transboundary councils, but the Commission has been moribund since COVID. There was talk of another feasibility study in 2017, but the plan drew criticism from Townsville business leaders who feared the line extension would negatively affect its economy. Ross Muir, economic development specialist at Nexidel Consulting, said at the time that it was a nation-building exercise worth supporting. “The connection would enable new mining and agricultural ventures, including the potential exploitation of huge phosphate deposits in the Barkly area. It would also promote tourism links across North West Queensland,” Mr Muir said. . In 2020 there was a bold plan for a so-called “Iron Boomerang” line, proposed to link Queensland’s Bowen Basin coal resources to WA’s Pilbara region and its iron ore store by a whopping 3300 km rail across northern Australia. Although with a proposed price tag of $100 billion, he may not be coming anytime soon to save Katherine’s empty supermarket shelves. If you want to filter all the latest news into a single late afternoon read, why not sign up for The Informer newsletter?



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