Access to derailed train a problem

Floodwaters delay train derailment response

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Train derailed in floodwaters at Nelia. Photo:Salvation Army Outback Flying Service.

Train derailed in floodwaters at Nelia. Photo:Salvation Army Outback Flying Service.


Floodwaters are continuing to impede access to a derailed freight train as Queensland Rail reveals details of the recovery plan.


Accessibility issues are holding back the response to a freight train derailed in floodwaters at Nelia, 60km east of Julia Creek.

The train carrying zinc, lead and copper anode had been stowed at Nelia, a high point on the Mount Isa line on January 31 in anticipation of the weather event, but unprecedented flooding saw wagons tipped onto their sides, spilling mining product into the water. 

The location had previously been used safely by Queensland Rail during significant weather events but on Thursday last week an aerial inspection showed the Pacific National locomotive and its 80 wagons surrounded by floodwaters. 

Aerial inspections have been conducted of the site but the floodwaters have hindered the ability of rail crews to physically access the site. 

Queensland Rail’s CEO Nick Easy said they were continuing to work with Pacific National, Glencore, the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services and the Department of Environment and Science.

“Further aerial inspections of the site are being undertaken in order to better understand local conditions, and appropriate controls will be implemented to ensure safe access of the site once waters recede,” he said. 

“Both Pacific National and Queensland Rail have also appointed independent environmental specialists to help guide preliminary assessments of the site and inform next steps.

“Once site access is available, the recovery of the Pacific National train will commence which will include a detailed inspection of the train and wagons, implementing any feasible containment measures, removal of product in wagons, righting the wagons and removing the train from site.”

Mr Easy said the work will involve using machinery including cranes and could not be completed until flood waters receded and ground conditions improved. 

“An environmental action plan will also be implemented which will include sampling and remediation works where required,” he said. 

Mr Easy said Queensland Rail had reached out to local landholders near the site to share information. 

“A Queensland Rail representative has also joined the Mount Isa District Disaster Management Group, to ensure we are linking into the broader recovery piece for the region and continue to share information with local stakeholders,” he said. 

The train consists of one locomotive and 80 wagons and it’s understood that mining product has spilled into floodwaters. 

McKinlay Shire Council CEO Des Niesler said Nelia residents had been evacuated to Julia Creek during the flooding, but he understood the water had receded from the township.

As of Tuesday, Mr Niesler said they were trying to get council crews in to assess the state of the roads. 

“We’ve been waiting for floodwaters to recede off the road and we will get in to see whatever streets are left,” he said.

“Previously the exclusion zone around the derailed train was 500m but that has been brought back to 20m.”

Meanwhile freight trains between Townsville and Brisbane resumed on Saturday. 


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