(EnergyAsia, July 11 2012, Wednesday) — QR National has awarded the second major construction contract worth A$56 million for the development of the Wiggins Island coal rail project, one of Australia’s largest rail infrastructure projects. (US$1=A$0.98).

Leighton Contractors has been awarded the civil works contract for the track duplication between Rocklands and Stanwell near Rockhampton, one of six key work sites for the first stage of the rail project.

Earlier, QR National had awarded Abigroup the A$76 million contract for the civil works for the balloon loop near Gladstone, where coal trains will be unloaded at the Wiggins Island coal export terminal.

QR National Network’s executive vice president, Michael Carter, said the award of the two contracts represents a significant step forward for the construction of the rail project, which remains on target to start railings in mid-2014.

“This signing of this new contract will enable Leighton to begin construction this month,” Mr Carter said.

“This particular segment involves 18 kilometres of track duplication between Rocklands and Stanwell on the Blackwater system as well as the construction of three rail bridges at the Burnett Highway, Four Mile Creek and Neerkol Creek.”

He said the Wiggins Island rail project would support the initial phase of the Wiggins Island terminal to handle 27 million tonnes of coal a year.

“As part of Stage 1 of the project, the entire Blackwater system will be duplicated, enabling longer coal trains of up to 1.7 kilometres and more frequent services along the track,” he said.

Last September, QR National signed an agreement with a consortium of coal companies to construct the Wiggins Island rail project, which involves the staged development of new rail lines and upgrading of existing lines to service the new Wiggins Island Coal Export Terminal (WICET) at the Port of Gladstone.

The six major worksites for Stage One of the project are Rocklands to Stanwell Duplication, the WICET Balloon Loop, Dingo to Bluff Duplication, Moura East upgrade, North Coast Line upgrade and Bauhinia North Branch upgrade.

The project is a central part of QR National’s coal infrastructure expansion program, which is adding more than 70 million tonnes of capacity to the Central Queensland coal network to lift total capacity to in excess of 300 million tonnes by 2015.