4000 jobs coming to Toowoomba as rail line expands

Oakey Beef Exports general manager Pat Gleeson overlooks the boning room. Oakey Abattoir opening of Bio-Gas plant Photo Bev Lacey / The Chronicle
Oakey Beef Exports general manager Pat Gleeson overlooks the boning room. Oakey Abattoir opening of Bio-Gas plant Photo Bev Lacey / The Chronicle Bev Lacey

UPDATE: Months of red tape have finally been cut, with the state government agreeing to fund a major upgrade of rail facilities through to Western Queensland.

The $2.5 million project will support a massive expansion of Oakey Abattoir through new rail freights hubs in Morven and Mitchell.

At the moment, cattle can only be loaded at Quilpie.

Treasurer Curtis Pitt estimated that the deal supported more than 4,300 jobs and would deliver about $1.3 billion in economic activity within the region.

He said the announcement would mean a $60 million plant expansion, a doubling of the abattoir's output.

The project has been halted since October last year over a dispute about who should pay for the siding upgrades.

Oakey Beef Exports did not want to spend their money upgrading the state asset.

It is understood that elements within the state government were leery of subsidising a private entity.

Transport Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said he wanted the department to start planning immediately and begin upgrades within six months.

"The project will include upgrading two sidings and reopening part of the old Cecil Plains branch line which was closed in 1994; it runs directly adjacent to the Oakey Beef facility," he said.

Oakey Abattoir general manager Pat Gleeson said he wanted the first train of cattle into Oakey before Christmas.

"Going forward this gives us the opportunity to source more cattle from those areas we've had limited access to (like the far West)," he said.

Quilpie shire mayor Stuart Mackenzie said the deal could be the first step in a broader rejuvenation of the western rail line, giving graziers better access to export markets.

"It gives us another choice, firstly having Oakey involved and they're going to be probably a serious player," he said.

"And being able to utilise the rail, which (producers have) never been able to before."

The deal means many farmers will be able to access subsidised rates for transport on the rail line through the livestock freight subsidy.

Aurizon, the only current player, wouldn't move anything less than a full train.

Under the new deal, farmers can combine together to fill a contract with Oakey.

The depot in Morven will be able to service Central Queensland, Cr Mackenzie said.

"It's on that key road link in Central Queensland," he said.

Quilpie shire council has been negotiating with the state government for four years, he said, to allow other users onto the western line. The contract was up in December.

"It's a really positive step it really is," he said.

EARLIER: More than 4000 jobs have been made possible after the government announced the reopening of a rail line to a Darling Downs abattoir.

Treasurer Curtis Pitt and Minister for Transport Stirling Hinchliffe today announced $2.5 million to upgrade rail sidings on the Western line and reopen part of an old branch line to support the expansion of Oakey Beef Exports.

Treasurer Curtis Pitt said the expansion of the Oakey facility was expected to support more than 4300 jobs and deliver about $1.3 billion in economic activity within the region.

"The Queensland Government is committed to supporting projects which provide jobs for Queenslanders and generate economic prosperity," Mr Pitt said.

"Today's announcement will help facilitate rail cattle movements from South West Qld to Oakey which is critical to allow Oakey Beef Exports to undertake a $60 million plant expansion and double its output.

"I am confident that this investment will generate significant economic benefits within Oakey and surrounding areas, delivering a major boost for regional jobs and bolster economic confidence in this region."

Minister Hinchliffe said the upgrading of rail infrastructure would allow the company to streamline its operations and move cattle by rail from Quilpie, Charleville, Morven, Roma and Mitchell, to Oakey.

"I have asked Queensland Rail to start planning activities immediately and begin work to upgrade the infrastructure within six months," Mr Hinchliffe said.

"The project will include upgrading two sidings and reopening part of the old Cecil Plains branch line which was closed in 1994, it runs directly adjacent to the Oakey Beef facility and will allow the company to reinstate rail freight movements and support more than 4,300 jobs in the region.

"This project reflects the Palaszczuk Government's commitment to invest in rail freight and support jobs growth for Queensland.

"We want to see more freight on our rail network, and will continue to support projects that deliver an economic benefit for our state.  

"The Palaszczuk Government has been working closely with the Murweh Council, the South West Regional Economic Development Association and Oakey Beef Exports to identify the opportunities that this project will bring to Queensland and our economy."



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