(EnergyAsia, July 3 2012, Tuesday) — Following on the Queensland state government’s announced support for the expansion of two major coal mining areas, Australia’s QR National said it is evaluating a joint proposal for an integrated rail proposal after awarding a A$76-million contract for a new loop section to the Wiggin Island project. (US$1=A$0.97).

Australia’s largest freight operator said it and India’s Adani Group will jointly evaluate an integrated rail proposal to serve the Carmichael coal mine in the Galilee Basin.

In a joint statement today, Adani chairman, Gautam Adani, and QR National managing director and CEO, Lance Hockridge, said the two companies will move preliminary work under a memorandum of understanding (MOU) into a feasibility stage.

The study will assess rail infrastructure and services to haul between 60 and 80 million tonnes of thermal coal per year from Carmichael to the Abbot Point terminal and possibly the future Dudgeon Point terminal.

The companies said this is aligns with the Queensland government’s decision to have a new west-east line to connect to QR National’s existing coal network to service the emerging coal mines in the Galilee Basin.

Mr Adani said: “A vertically integrated solution where Adani and QR National work across the mine, rail and port interfaces will result in a very efficient and cost effective supply chain.

“The joint evaluation will draw on the significant work done to date by both parties on logistics solutions – Adani with its mine and port developments, and QR National through its Central Queensland Integrated Rail Project.”

Mr Hockridge said: “Through preliminary work we’ve been doing with Adani, it became clear there was an alignment of interests in developing an integrated rail solution for their Carmichael mine.

“The decision by the Queensland government declaring a common rail corridor means that we can now accelerate work on the feasibility of the rail solution required.”

Earlier, QR National announced that it had awarded a A$76 million contract related to the Wiggins Island, one of the country’s largest rail infrastructure projects.

Abigroup has been appointed to undertake the civil works for the 13km 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 it was the first major contract for the Wiggins Island rail project which is scheduled to start railings for customers from mid-2014.

He said: “The signing of this contract is a significant milestone for the project. It means Abigroup can hit the ground and have earthworks underway in coming weeks.

“The Balloon Loop is one of six key worksites for Stage One of WIRP. The other five are the Rocklands to Stanwell Duplication, Dingo to Bluff Duplication, Moura East upgrade, North Coast Line upgrade and Bauhinia North Branch upgrade.

“The Wiggins Island Rail Project will support the initial 27 million tonnes per annum of coal to Wiggins Island Coal Terminal and leverages our existing rail infrastructure to boost coal exports from the southern end of the Bowen Basin.”

The Wiggins Island Rail Project are a central part of QR National’s coal infrastructure expansion programme to add more than 70 million tonnes of capacity to the Central Queensland coal network, taking total capacity to in excess of 300 million tonnes by 2015.

QR National recently commissioned stage 1 of the A$1.1 billion Goonyella-to-Abbott Point expansion project that will lift coal exports to the Abbot Point terminal by 33 million tonnes.

The company has welcomed the announcement by the Queensland state government to help support expansion of the Bowen and Galilee Basins.