FMG train crossing the Turner River
|Locale||Pilbara, Western Australia|
|Termini||Christmas Creek, Cloud Break
|Line length||280 km (173.98 mi)|
The Fortescue Railway, owned and operated by The Pilbara Infrastructure Pty Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Fortescue Metals Group (FMG), is a private rail network in the Pilbara region of Western Australia for the purpose of carrying iron ore. It is the only railway line the group operates in the Pilbara, having opened in 2008. Upon completion, the railway line was the heaviest haul railway in the world, designed for 40 tonnes axleloads, 2.5 to 5 tonnes heavier than the other Pilbara iron ore rail systems.
Additionally to the FMG line, a number of other networks operate in the region. One is operated by the Rio Tinto Group, the Hamersley & Robe River railway, while another two, operated by BHP Billiton, are the Goldsworthy railway and the Mount Newman railway.
FMG originally planned to use the existing railway lines, owned and operated by BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, to develop its Cloud Break deposit. Lengthy legal battles however forced the company to spend A$2.5 billion to construct its own line.
Construction on the 280-kilometre-long line from the Cloud Break mine to the Herb Elliott Port at Point Hedland was begun in November 2006. The line was scheduled to be fully operational within 18 months. A cyclone in March 2007 killed two workers at the project and led to delays. The first train from the mine to the port travelled on 5 April 2008.
As of 2012, FMG operates 15 GE Dash 9-44CW locomotives, 9 EMD SD90 locomotives and 1482 freight cars on the line. The journey from mine to port takes approximately five hours and, on average, four trains a day are operated.
Unlike BHP, which controls its trains from Port Hedland, Fortescues trains are controlled from Perth. The line is open-access, meaning Fortescue is willing to allow other mining companies to use it for their operations.
BHP Billiton & Rio Tinto railway use
Before deciding to construct its own line, the National Competition Council of Australia received an application from the Fortescue Metals Group (FMG) on 15 June 2004, to use part of the Mount Newman railway and also part of the Goldsworthy railway.
In June 2010, the Australian Competition Tribunal ruled that FMG would be granted access to Rio Tinto's Robe River line and BHP Billiton's Goldsworthy line but not to the busier Hamersley and Mount Newman lines.  Treasurer Wayne Swan suggested that several advantages would accrue from access to the rail lines by third parties. It would increase competition, reduce duplication of infrastructure, and reduce environmental damage.
Access to the rail networks by third parties is governed by the State Agreements Act.
BC Iron mine
- run its own trains on the Fortescue tracks. However, BCI has little experience in running trains.
- Have its ore carried on Fortescue trains, for a fee of 50% of the ore. This relies on Fortescue's train operating expertise. Furthermore, Fortescue pays the capital cost of any extra rail infrastructure needed.
- Infrastructure: Rail Fortescue website, accessed: 6 November 2010
- Rail Rio Tinto Iron Ore website, accessed: 6 November 2010
- Rail BHP Billiton website, accessed: 6 November 2010
- Fortescue opens the world's heaviest haul railway Railway Gazette International, published: 14 July 2008, accessed: 6 November 2010
- Mt Newman Railway National Competition Council of Australia website, accessed: 6 November 2010
- Junior miners win limited access to Pilbara rail network lloydslistdcn.com.au, published: 1 July 2010, accessed: 4 November 2010
- Watchdog 'can demand Pilbara rail expansion' The Australian, published: 13 May 2010, accessed: 4 November 2010
- BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto angry on open Pilbara rail line news.com.au, published: 28 October 2008, accessed: 4 November 2010
- Report on Current Transport and Communications Infrastructure in the Pilbara Murdoch University, accessed: 4 November 2010
- FMG website
- Pilbara Railways – rail enthusiast website
- West Aust Railscene eMag (weekly, free) – frequently includes images of, and short notes on, Fortescue railway operations