After years of struggling to book cattle trains in south west Queensland, livestock producers have now been provided a full service schedule.
Quilpie Shire Council Mayor Stuart Mackenzie has confirmed with rail freight provider, Aurizon, it will run all 27 livestock rail services from Quilpie between May and November this year.
“It is great to confirm through discussions I’ve had with Aurizon that the company plans to provide the full complement of cattle trains in 2017,” Cr Mackenzie said.
“I also believe extra cattle trains will be provided for direct transport to Oakey Beef Export’s meat processing plant, which is in addition to the promised 27 yearly services.
“In talking with Oakey Beef it’s clear they have a long term plan to run a full cattle train out of Quilpie’s rail facility every two weeks, but I think this won’t be happening for at least two years.”
A total of 15 cattle trains traveled from Quilpie’s rail facility during the second half of last year, with 11 of those 44 deck cattle trains fully booked, according to Quilpie Livestock Centre owner Carolyn Burnes.
On average 20 to 22 head of bullocks can fit into a single cattle deck, with a full train transporting up to 968 head of prime bullocks.
“I’m feeling confident about livestock rail services on the southern line for 2017,” Cr Mackenzie said.
“Some good rainfall across Queensland’s channel country and the high cattle prices have given more chance that trains will have adequate cattle supply during 2017.”
Aurizon declined to reveal the amount the company is paid by the Queensland Government to provide yearly western livestock rail services.
Cr Mackenzie said he believed some maintenance and upgrades to rail rolling stock would be required to ensure livestock rail services could accommodate the increased demand.
In northern Queensland, Richmond Shire Mayor John Wharton is also positive about cattle train transport in 2017.
“Since last year, we’ve had a fairly good response from Aurizon with the cattle trains on the Mt Isa to Townsville line,” Cr Wharton said.
“We are more confident there’s good support for agriculture since the mining boom has started to subside.”
But, Cr Wharton noted it hasn’t always been an optimistic outlook for Queensland’s cattle trains.
“History shows that our State Government made it clear for a long time it wasn’t interested in carting anything with arms or legs.”
“If livestock rail services now become more reliable then producers are going to use more cattle trains to transport their stock.”
Aurizon has scheduled 114 north west livestock rail services in 2017, while the central west will receive 184 cattle trains during the year.