LAST MONTH Queensland Rail formally put in a bid to buy forwarding company FCL Interstate Transport Services. With the A$446·5m deal to acquire Australian Railroad Group’s operations in Western Australia finalised on June 2, QR appears set on a course of aggressive expansion.

If it beats the three other reported contenders for FCL, the state-owned operator will have bagged another valuable asset for the end game which could well see QR pitched against the giant Toll-Patrick conglomerate in a battle for domination of Australia’s rail freight business.

Back in its home state, QR is poised to unveil an A$3·5bn Master Plan to boost capacity on its coal network over the next five years. Last year the 1067mm gauge operator hauled a record 156 million tonnes of coal - the ninth record in succession - and the announcement of a Master Plan suggests that the total will continue to soar. On the cards are more passing loops, double tracking, traction power supply enhancements, terminal improvements and maybe even new routes. These are likely to include the long-planned link between the Goonyella and Newlands networks.

H Meanwhile, Toll Holdings has appointed Goldman Sachs JBWere to manage the sale of a 50% interest in its inter-state freight operator Pacific National, in line with undertakings given to the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission during its takeover battle for Patrick Corp (RG 4.06 p184).