New $110m coal train facility opens in the Hunter

Asciano’s coal haulage division Pacific National Coal has opened a new $110 million train support facility in Greta, New South Wales.

The new facility is designed to support Pacific National Coal’s existing coal haulage operations and increase efficiency as well as the capacity of the Hunter Valley Coal Chain, which often faces significant log jams.

A range of functions will be performed onsite, including the refuelling of trains, routine train inspections, and wagon maintenance work, with a major pint of difference: trains stay on the track.

“Today to do that work we have to take locomotives off the train, take them to another facility, bring them back, and reconnect the train,” Pacific National Coal’s director, David Irwin told Australian Mining

“They key principal here is trains don’t get separated.”

Irwin said that the new facility means increased efficiency and less congestion of trains in and around the port at Kooragang Island.

“Doing it here rather than at the port means that we can actually make better use of both the dump stations at the port and the track that already exists. So there will be a step up in terms of how much coal we can move,” he said.

“Having a facility like this that’s off the network allows us to work more efficiently.

“Our trains will spend less time out of action for maintenance.”

The work undertaken at Greta means a movement from Kooragang Island, a move which PCN say will free up the network as the new facility acts as a ‘pit-stop’ for maintainance, which means trains can be processed more quickly without causing delays along the main Hunter line.

Despite the wide spread coal downturn felt in this  year, Irwin said the thermal coal market in the Hunter had remained strong.

“In terms of thermal coal out of Newcastle, demand has not slowed down at all and we’ve actually seen record throughput levels happening here over the last few months.”

The company is also increasing its market share in Queensland, with a similar facility opening up in Nebo in August.

The Queensland facility will support its coal haulage operations and increase its services along the Goonyella, Blackwater, and Newlands rail networks, but unlike Greta, PCN are able to conduct heavy maintenance works there.

"Nebo is the first facility of its design in Australia and includes some of the most innovative design and maintenance techniques seen within the rail industry today, with capacity to support up to 25 coal trains, with eight bays for locomotives and two main tracks for wagon maintenance,” Geoff Featherstone, Pacific National's general manager operations QLD, said.

The facility at Greta will employ 30 people when it becomes fully operational in the coming weeks.

Pacific National Coal’s NSW general manager, David Mayo said the company was dedicated to expanding its operations in the region.

“We are committed to ongoing investment in the local region, and look forward to our continued collaboration with Cessnock City Council, the New South Wales Government and the local community to ensure continued job growth and with our employees and customers to ensure we deliver on our promise of flexible, safe and innovative services,” he said.

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