The costs of repairing train tracks in the Hunter Valley damaged by flooding will be “significant,” the Australian Rail Track Corporation has warned as coal, freight and passenger rail services in the region remain suspended following storms.
Coal haulage operations are expected to stay dormant for the next two days as the ARTC, which manages the Hunter Valley coal rail network, waits for flood waters to recede so that it can repair damaged tracks.
A spokesman said it was too early to estimate the cost of repair but that it would be “significant”.
The flooding has prevented coal from being railed to ports for export. Port Waratah Coal Services, which exports coal through the Port of Newcastle, stopped loading coal on Monday but resumed loading on Thursday afternoon. It can export coal from stockpiles while rail systems are repaired.
The Hunter Valley Coal Chain Co-ordinator, which oversees daily operations, said assessments were being made to determine the “throughput impact” of track damage.
“Weather outages certainly aren’t unusual,” a spokesperson said.
Rail tracks further north, which carry other kinds of freight, were more severely damaged, with some 14 kilometres under water. The ARTC has identified 22 sites on the tracks that will need “significant repair”.
Rail haulage group Asciano said it was trying to minimise service impacts as a result of damage to freight rail infrastructure along the Sydney to Brisbane rail corridor and that capacity on other east coast routes would be increased to manage interstate freight volumes until affected tracks were reopened.
Rival Aurizon began stowing trains on Tuesday and said it would resume services as soon as possible to try and recover lost tonnages.
Miner Glencore suspended operations at its Hunter open cut mines during the floods, while Peabody closed its Wambo mine temporarily.
Anglo American’s Drayton operations were closed on Tuesday night but reopened on Wednesday morning.
BHP Billiton’s underground operations in the Illawarra and Rio Tinto’s Hunter operations were not affected.