Rail routes neglect to blame
AUSTRALIA'S biggest meat processor blamed years of negligent spending by the previous State Government for last Friday's sudden closure of vital rail routes in the region.
On Friday, the LNP Government closed rail operations in the state's Central West due to concerns that bogus bridge inspections had been carried out for the past 18 months.
Minister for Transport Scott Emerson said more than 70 wooden bridges in the region would need to be reinspected.
A number of the lines had since been reopened with restrictions, but the Clermont to Springsure line remained shut, leaving many producers in turmoil and faced with increases in transport costs as they looked to the road.
John Berry from JBS Australia, the country's largest abattoir operator, said the rail system had been neglected for years.
"This is a system that hasn't seen significant investment for a long time," Mr Berry said.
"There are a whole lot of people involved … the cattle industry is the second biggest industry in Queensland and there has been significant investment by producers and processors to get it there."
Mr Berry said discussions with the LNP government since last Friday had been positive.
In an address to the Parliamentary Chamber yesterday, Member for Gregory Vaughan Johnson ack nowledged the seriousness of the situation and congratulated the Transport Minister for his swift action.
Speaking on the Clermont to Emerald service he said: "Because of the suspension of that service for two months, the Transport Minister has put in place a permit system for type 2 road trains which is a three-trailer configuration to move from Clermont to Emerald.
"This is about keeping commerce moving and letting operations like JBS Swift, Teys and other processing plants on the coast move ahead."
Mr Johnson said the state had "antiquated rail infrastructure" and a "poor road system". He said processing plants had room for more work if they could only get cattle to the plants.
AgForce president Brent Finlay said any plans to increase primary production in Queensland would be thwarted by road and rail networks not capable of transporting commodities to market.
Mr Berry said there would be about 2000 extra head of cattle on the road per week from Clermont alone.
Its the end of the line for some QR workers
By Tara Miko
RAIL jobs from Duaringa through to Longreach are under threat as the State Government orders Queensland Rail to cut costs.
Families who have called Duaringa home for more than 20 years could soon be forced to move to Gracemere.
Those in the maintenance gang are under particular threat as Queensland Rail seeks to shut it down and relocate closer to the coast.
Rail, Tram and Bus Union regional organiser Craig Allen said it was a precarious time for the public sector as the new government was on a "cut, slash and burn mission".
"In the last 100 days, they have announced thousands of jobs lost," Mr Allen said.
It means RTBU delegates and representatives have been scrambling to ensure their members are not in the firing line.
Members are employed by both QR and QR National - the privatised arm of the state-owned rail asset.
Mr Allen remained confident job vacancies within QRN gangs at Emerald, Alpha, Barcaldine and Longreach would be filled.
"In the Blackwater system, a reduction of 25 train drivers has been sought," Mr Allen said.
"They (QRN) have also sought a reduction of five staff from the maintenance gang at Emerald.
"They have also sought reduction of about six positions from Blackwater and they have also sought to close Duaringa maintenance gang down completely."
He said the 1500 members from Rockhampton to Longreach were "very concerned in the direction the company is taking".
"It's difficult because the restructure the company has put in is far-reaching and stretching," he said.
"They've given a different justification for each region."
A QR National spokesman said the company expected to "be able to communicate the final decisions directly with employees in the near future".