Pilbara rail donated to Queensland farmers

Daneka HillThe West Australian

A convoy of volunteering truck drivers has begun its journey across the country to deliver 800 tonnes of fencing to flooded-out farmers.

A roster of truck drivers are voluntarily hauling cast-off rails from BHP’s Port Hedland scrap yard to outback Queensland towns.

Truck driver Michael King said they’ll cross the continent with triple road trains into communities between Mount Isa and Townsville.

“We will just drive until our hours are up and if that’s where it stops well, barbecue and a beer and a sleep and off we go again.”

The unlikely brain behind the operation, Mr King said he only put a few calls in and the idea took off without him.

“I’ve seen very few emails. I’m not an email person, I don’t send texts, everything was just done on the telephone. It was all word of mouth and I was surprised just how it went,” he said.

It is not unusual for rails to end up as support posts in the arid parts of Australia, BHP manager of rail execution Glenn Osbourne explained they donate scrap metal to Pilbara farmers often.

BHP replaces over a hundred kilometres of rail every year on their Pilbara railway network.
Camera IconBHP replaces over a hundred kilometres of rail every year on their Pilbara railway network. Credit: Daneka Hill

Mr Osborne admitted being involved was a “little difficult” but the team worked hard when they heard what the rail was for.

“We’ve got lots of people who have come to site on their days off and spent several days supporting with the loading and the preparation of the rail,” he said.

The fuel costs for the trip will be $8,000 per truck, currently the cost is being paid from the truck drivers own pockets.

Mr King is asking for someone to come forward with the fuel costs.

To get their trucks into Port Hedland itself was $1,100 worth of fuel.

“That’s fine,” Mr King said about the thousand dollar price tag.

“We are all prepared to whether that to get ourselves here to start. We’re just asking for someone to help us out from here to the other end.”

“Everyone has been good to me but it’s just the fuel, and the bigger players who could do something about it are putting their heads in the sand.”

Mr King got the idea to organise the trip after making deliveries in the Gulf of Carpentaria where communities have been cut off from the east coast by the flood water.

“I had tea with a bloke in the middle of the Northern Territory – his family are in Cloncurry and that’s how I got the gist of what was going on with all these cattle,” he said.

Before heading off to the “wet-lands” as Mr King called them, he thanked BHP and their partner Sims Metal for the easy cooperation.

“Even though you can say it’s scrap it is still worth something and I think it is just terrific how everyone responded to the call.”

If all the rails being trucked to Queensland were laid down end to end they would stretch for 12 kms.

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