Queensland rail giant Aurizon seals deal with miners

RAIL giant Aurizon has struck a decade-long deal with some of Queensland's biggest coal miners over the cost of accessing its central Queensland rail network.

The deal is seen as a major breakthrough for Aurizon, which has been fighting an extended battle with the Queensland Competition Authority (QCA) and the mining industry over how much money it can charge mining companies to use its rail tracks.

Aurizon said yesterday the terms of the proposed access agreement had been extended until 2027 with an increased return to the company on its investment in the network.

Aurizon started cutting schedules last year in response to a draft decision by the QCA that ­slashed by $1 billion the amount the company could earn from the network.

 

New Aurizon chief executive Andrew Harding. Supplied.
New Aurizon chief executive Andrew Harding. Supplied.

 

Reduced schedules, which cut after-hours maintenance, meant fewer coal trains could be delivered to major ports.

Miners had warned thar Japanese steels mills were considering buying coal in other markets because of the Aurizon impasse, which could have cut about $4 billion worth of coal exports. Mining giant Glencore had accused Aurizon of destabilising the Queensland coal industry for its own profit.

Aurizon chief executive Andrew Harding said yesterday the agreement was an important step to better address customer needs and provide longer term certainty for the resources sector.

Aurizon earlier this year reported a 19 per cent slide in first-half profit as the dispute dragged on. Aurizon said miners including Anglo American, BHP, Coronado, Glencore, QCoal and Yancoal would be submitting letters of support for the new agreement to the regulator.

The agreement will require sign off by the state's competition regulator before coming into effect. BHP executive Rag Udd, who is chair of the Queensland Coal Rail Working Group, said the new access regime provided greater certainty to sustain export operations.

"It places a greater commitment on Aurizon to deliver the capacity ... and work with industry to develop productivity and efficiency improvements," Mr Udd said. Aurizon shares climbed 2.95 per cent to $4.89 yesterday.

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