First modern container trains to roll down the range in 2020
MODERN containerised grain, cotton coal and other commodity freight will, for the first time, run down the Great Dividing Range when a $77 million upgrade to Toowoomba rail line is complete next year.
The Queensland Government spent the past year lowering and widening 11 heritage tunnels along the range, to allow larger, 9'6" containerised freight train to run from the Darling Downs to the Port of Brisbane.
A further $37 million was spent stabilise sections of the rail line, near Spring Bluff.
The project is expected to be complete in time for the 2020 cotton harvest.
The two projects generated an estimated 230 jobs.
While the rail line had been use to cart coal and other agricultural products in the past, with tunnels dating back to the 1800s, the tunnels were too narrow for modern container carriages to pass through.
Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey said the widened tunnels would benefit communities from Toowoomba to Western Queensland.
"The Darling Downs and Southwest produces almost a third of our state's agricultural output, and it is vital we continue to support the jobs, businesses and industry it creates," he said.
"The Palaszczuk Government is backing our producers and world-class exports with a more competitive freight system."
Existing tracks along the tunnels have been replaced with pre-cast concrete slabs, which require less maintenance, and final enabling works are now being completed, with expected completion in early 2020.
The Toowoomba range is a geographically challenging section of the state rail network, with the upgrades designed to make the range more resilient to wet weather and unplanned disruptions.