Railway engineering in Queensland is set to receive a $17 million boost from the state government to increase freight capacity.
The Newman government revealed the money will go towards enlarging the train tunnels through both the Toowoomba Range and Lockyer Valley.
Scott Emerson, transport and roads minister, said the aim is to lower the floors of 11 tunnels overall, including nine heritage-listed structures.
He claimed this will boost the agricultural industry in particular by allowing bigger hi-cube containers to travel between the Darling Downs and the Port of Brisbane.
“This will be a challenging engineering task because the tunnels along the western and south western rail corridors must retain their historic qualities,” he explained.
“We’ve already taken steps to build two additional passing loops on the range to allow more services for cotton and grain and this will now allow even more freight capacity.”
However, despite these difficulties, these projects are vital to ensuring the state can prepare for future freight growth, the transport minister added.
“We need to make sensible decisions now to improve the capacity on our train network.”
Mr Emerson confirmed that geotechnical work on the tunnels has already begun, with engineering activity starting in earnest early next year.
According to the Newman government, there has been a significant rise in the number of larger nine-foot six-inch containers in recent years, compared with the previous standard of eight feet and six inches.
The amount of grain and cotton passing through the Port of Brisbane jumped 50 per cent in 2012, Mr Emerson stated, so addressing the height constraints for agricultural freight will ensure capacity is available for future growth.
“These two projects will mean more farmers can get crops off the road and on to rail and start to address the transportation needs of farmers across south-west Queensland well into the future,” he said.