Fortescue railway

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Fortescue Railway
FMG Iron Ore Train -2008.JPG
Three GE Dash 9-44CWs haul a train across the Turner River in July 2008
Type Heavy rail
Status Operational
Locale Pilbara, Western Australia
Termini Christmas Creek mine
Cloud Break mine
Port Hedland
Opened 5 April 2008
Operator(s) Fortescue Metals Group
Depot(s) Thomas Yard
Line length 280 km (173.98 mi)
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)

The Fortescue Railway, owned and operated by Fortescue Metals Group (FMG), is a private rail network in the Pilbara region of Western Australia built to carry iron ore opening in 2008.[1] 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.[1] On 4 November 2014, FMG Rail commenced trialing 42 tonnes axle loads.

Additionally to the FMG line, a number of other networks operate in the region. Rio Tinto operate the Hamersley & Robe River railway,[2] while BHP Billiton operate the Goldsworthy and Mount Newman railways.[3]


Iron ore mines in the Pilbara region

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.[4]

Construction on the 280 kilometre line from the Cloud Break mine to the Herb Elliott Port at Port Hedland commenced in November 2006. The current network consists of 620 kilometres of track.[1] 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 ran on 5 April 2008.[4] In December 2012, the line was extended to the new Solomon Mine.[5]

The journey from mine to port takes approximately five hours and, on average, 14 trains a day are operated.[1] The line is open-access, meaning Fortescue is willing to allow other mining companies to use it for their operations.[4]

BHP Billiton & Rio Tinto railway use[edit]

Before deciding to construct its own line, in June 2004 FMG lodged an application with the National Competition Council of Australia to use part of the Goldsworthy and Mount Newman railways.[6]

In June 2010, the Australian Competition Tribunal ruled that FMG be granted access to Rio Tinto's Robe River line and BHP's Billiton's Goldsworthy line but not to the busier Hamersley and Mount Newman lines.[7][8] 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.[9]

Access to the rail networks by third parties is governed by the State Agreements Act.[10]

In November 2010, BC Iron became the first mining company to access a Pilbara network via a third party agreement.[11]

Rolling stock[edit]

To operate construction trains, four ex Hamersley & Robe River railway C-636Rs were leased from Coote Industrial after overhaul in Perth, and a former Kowloon-Canton Railway EMD G12 locomotive leased from Chicago Freight Car Leasing Australia.[12]

As at February 2015, FMG operated 45 locomotives and 3,244 iron ore wagons.[1]

As at October 2014, the locomotive fleet comprises 21 Electro Motive Diesel SD70ACes,[13][14] 15 GE Dash 9-44CWs[15] and nine former Union Pacific Railroad Electro Motive Diesel SD90s that were converted to SD70ACes.[16][17] Seven rebuilt Union Pacific Railroad EMD SD90MAC-Hs Phase IIs were in transit from the United States.[18]


  1. ^ a b c d e Port and Rail Infrastructure Fortescue Metals Group
  2. ^ Rail Rio Tinto
  3. ^ Rail BHP Billiton
  4. ^ a b c Fortescue opens the world's heaviest haul railway Railway Gazette International published: 14 July 2008 accessed: 6 November 2010
  5. ^ "Fortescue Hamersley Line opened" Railway Digest February 2013 page 23
  6. ^ Application for declaration of the Mt Newman Railway National Competition Council of Australia
  7. ^ Junior miners win limited access to Pilbara rail network, published: 1 July 2010, accessed: 4 November 2010
  8. ^ Watchdog 'can demand Pilbara rail expansion' The Australian, published: 13 May 2010, accessed: 4 November 2010
  9. ^ BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto angry on open Pilbara rail line, published: 28 October 2008, accessed: 4 November 2010
  10. ^ Report on Current Transport and Communications Infrastructure in the Pilbara Murdoch University, accessed: 4 November 2010
  11. ^ Project History BC Iron
  12. ^ Fortescue Metal Group Road Pilbara Railway Pages
  13. ^ Downer to build 19 locomotives for Fortescue Railway Technology 26 June 2012
  14. ^ Clark, Peter (2012). An Australian Locomotive Guide. Rosenberg Publishing. p. 215. ISBN 9781921719554. 
  15. ^ Clark, Peter (2012). An Australian Locomotive Guide. Rosenberg Publishing. p. 281. ISBN 9781921719554. 
  16. ^ Clark, Peter (2012). An Australian Locomotive Guide. Rosenberg Publishing. p. 220. ISBN 9781921719554. 
  17. ^ "Australia Wide Fleet List" Motive Power issue 96 November 2014 page 67
  18. ^ "Motive Power Roundup" Motive Power issue 96 November 2014 page 74

External links[edit]