Coalminers want to access QR lines

THE Queensland Government’s plan to sell Queensland Rail (QR) has upped the ante between transport company Asciano and central Queensland coal miners.

Asciano, the company that owns rail giant Pacific National is trying to block 16 coalminers from bargaining with QR over use of railway infrastructure associated with Gladstone’s Wiggins Island coal export terminal.

According to the miners, infrastructure blockages in the network requires separate party access negotiations and has sometimes led to contracted capacity exceeding system capabilities.

The 16 miners have applied to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to collectively negotiate terms and conditions of below-rail access with QR Network, the QR National unit that owns the infrastructure, for 20 years.

The miners’ application lawyers Mallesons Stephen Jaques said the conduct for which the authorisation was sought was likely to generate more efficient investment through the coal export supply chain.

“This includes increased ability to invest in infrastructure, either directly or through long-term contracts with QR Network, lower transaction costs and increased certainty and timeliness of commercial outcomes.”

Asciano, which is separately seeking a National Competition Council “declaration” of Queensland’s freight network, said it had several concerns about the miners’ application.

“Asciano’s concern is that the negotiations between the applicants and QR Network may also address non-QR Network-related issues, particularly above-rail operations,” Asciano access and regulation manager Stuart Ronan said in a submission.

Applicants include Xstrata, Anglo American, Wesfarmers and Macarthur Coal.

Mr Ronan said that because some of the applicants – a body of coalminers – were members of QCIRG – there would be competition issues if the QCIRG bid were successful.

“Asciano has concerns that there will not be effective separation of all components of the coal supply chain,” he said.

QR said it supported the application.

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