Fiona Simpson
Fiona Simpson Jason Dougherty

Rail failures slug jobs at creek

NINE hundred Rockhampton meatworkers have lost money because Queensland Rail's cattle train service is failing, a senior Opposition politician claims.

Fiona Simpson, the Shadow Minister for Main Roads and Transport, tore into the Government for cancelling trains and failing to maintain services to bring cattle to the Beef Capital for slaughter.

She alleges workers have been stood down for two or three shifts as a direct consequence of QR mismanagement. And she claims the government doesn't seem to care.

“It's an enormous loss for meatworkers and their families and to the local economies, but Transport Minister Rachel Nolan couldn't care less,” she said after a clash in Parliament.

Ms Simpson said when she raised the issue, the Minister blamed delays in getting cattle to Rockhampton on operational issues.

Rockhampton's biggest meat producer, Teys Brothers, said last month that production was being threatened by a shortage of cattle compounded by problems with Queensland Rail's cattle transport service.

The Lakes Creek Road plant needs a minimum of 1600 cattle a day to operate at maximum capacity and keep the 1000 staff working on all shifts. The company was unable to comment further yesterday.

John Berry, a director of Swift Australia, told The Morning Bulletin meat processors had been campaigning for years for improvements to the cattle train service.

“It has been in decline for more than a decade, caused by a lack of investment and QR's preference to haul coal. If things don't improve, jobs will be threatened.”

The number of cattle killed in Queensland meant it was impossible to move them all by road, he said.

“The problems are not just about a lack of rolling stock and locomotives. There are manning issues and difficulties with main line access,” he said.

A response to the claims was sought from Ms Nolan's office, which in turn referred the matter to QR.

A spokesman said QR was committed to transporting livestock and was the only transport and logistics company in Australia still moving livestock by rail.

“In fact, approximately only 10% of livestock is transported by rail, with the remainder being transported by road. In 2009, QR will carry an estimated 300,000 head,” he said.

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