Premier and Reconstruction Minister Anna Bligh has announced the flood-damaged Toowoomba rail line was on track to reopen on 28 March, three months earlier than originally forecast.
Ms Bligh said the reopening, ahead of schedule, is great news for Toowoomba and the region.
“This will take trucks off the road and put freight back on trains and that will be welcomed by residents.
“The effort put in here, to fast track the $30 million in repairs, shows the tremendous rebuilding spirit in Queensland.
“This has been a huge job. More than 260 sites required repairs in the Toowoomba Range, including a 25 metre deep washout near the historical Spring Bluff station.
“More than 150 Queensland Rail workers and more than 100 Thiess employees have toiled day and night since January 10,” she said.
Ms Bligh said the effort put in at Toowoomba was being repeated in other areas after floods and cyclone caused about 3800 kilometres of the Queensland Rail network to close.
These closures initially affected an area stretching from Emerald in the central west to Cairns in the north and through south-western Queensland to Quilpie.
“Despite about $107 million in damage state-wide, Queensland Rail is well on the way to re-establishing vital links and getting Queensland moving again.
“The Western and South-Western lines are the last major pieces of the network that remain closed due to damage from the recent natural disasters.
“It has been a massive effort to restore vital infrastructure, involving almost 1000 Queensland Rail staff and contractors working throughout the state,” Ms Bligh said.
Member for Toowoomba North Kerry Shine said the reopening of the Toowoomba line would be a boost for the region and Queensland.
“The local communities and industries that use this line contribute more than $800 million in exports to the economy each year.
“Each week about 100 trains carrying nearly 200,000 tonnes of freight travel from south-western Queensland over the Toowoomba Range to primary industry processors, the Port of Brisbane, and other markets.
“The reopening of the Western and South-Western lines will reconnect vital trains carrying coal, grain, livestock and general freight to and from towns all the way out to Quilpie and Dirranbandi.
“The Westlander passenger service, which travels from Brisbane to Charleville, will recommence services in mid-April.
“Queensland Rail has put in place arrangements for Westlander customers to travel by bus along the rail route until normal train services recommence,” Mr Shine said.
Minister for Transport Annastacia Palaszczuk said the line west of Toowoomba was hardest hit from January’s floods with extensive washouts and landslips throughout the Range.
“Given that works of this complexity and scale would usually take longer than six months to complete, I am pleased that Queensland Rail is set to reopen the line well ahead of schedule, weather permitting.
“Queensland Rail crews and local contractors have put in an extraordinary effort to work as quickly and safely as possible, which has seen the reopening date brought forward twice,” she said.
Queensland Rail Chief Executive Officer Paul Scurrah said the Western lines were crucial sections of the Queensland Rail network.
“We’ve worked as quickly and safely as possible to ensure vital freight can be transported again by rail,” Mr Scurrah said.
“Queensland Rail would like to thank customers and local communities for their patience during this time of immense rebuilding,” he said.