FOR THE third time since the electrified heavy haul coal line linking Goonyella mine to the port of Hay Point opened in 1971, a massive derailment on July 1 closed this vital export route. This time it took Queensland Rail four days to clear the double track and repair the damage, including 500m of track and 2 km of 25 kV catenary.

The train originating at Norwich Park mine consisted of 120 wagons grossing 104 tonnes with three electric locos on the head end and two more in the middle. The 29th wagon left the rails accompanied by the following 74 wagons and both mid-train locos, together with the vehicle carrying the Locotrol radio equipment. Total train weight would have been some 13000 tonnes; the clean-up operation involved around 6000 tonnes of coal and 2000 tonnes of wagons and locomotives. Nobody was hurt, but the bill faced by QR was put at $A15m.

There has been no official statement about the cause, but the derailment took place near the foot of the 2% descent of the Connors Range between Black Mountain and the junction with QR’s north coast line at Yukan.

The accident comes against a background of another year of record tonnages, with QR hauling 127·8 million tonnes of coal in 2000-01, up nearly 12% on the previous year. Queensland Transport & Main Roads Minister Steve Bredhauer noted on August 1 that this was ’the highest single-commodity tonnage achieved by a railway operator in Australia, private or state, and consolidates QR’s standing as one of the world’s great heavy haul railways.’ The Goonyella network hauled 69·3 million tonnes, up 6 million tonnes on 1999-2000.