DUST UP: Spokesman for Stop Brisbane Coal Trains John Gordon with fellow members at the East Ipswich train station.
DUST UP: Spokesman for Stop Brisbane Coal Trains John Gordon with fellow members at the East Ipswich train station. Sarah Harvey

Train approaching: step back and don't breathe

COAL train wagons that travel through Ipswich must be covered for the sake of public health.

That was the word from Stop Brisbane Coal Trains spokesman John Gordon yesterday, who said issues associated with coal dust remained a pressing public health concern.

Mr Gordon said the cost of covering each wagon with a lid was cost effective at just $10 per wagon per trip.

"We've got 13 to 15 coal trains going through Ipswich each day and that is about 30 with the return trip," Mr Gordon said.

"The coal is just blowing in the wind.

"Industry and the government know that they lose coal on the way in and the way back.

"They say they are doing something with their veneering...which is a plastic coating or a 'hair spray' as we call it that they put over it. But that is just a stunt.

"Coal dust is toxic. A senate hearing has just heard from epidemiologists and World Health Organisation experts that it is hazardous.

"There is arsenic and mercury in it and if it gets down into people's lungs... it is dangerous. You have to cover your load to go to the dump so these guys have to cover their coal load."

The QT reported last month that the Coalition had committed $300 million to finalise plans for the Toowoomba to Acacia Ridge sections of the Inland Rail Link, stretching from the Port of Brisbane to Melbourne.

The project had been budgeted for by the former Labor Government, but the Coalition spruiked the plan as one that would take coal trains out of Ipswich by 2019, by providing a corridor for coal trains to the south of the city.

One of the sections of the line includes a dedicated new rail corridor from Rosewood to Agaru, in Brisbane's south, which will then proceed to Acacia Ridge before linking with another corridor through to the Port of Brisbane.

But Mr Gordon said the plan was just an election stunt.

"We think it is pie in the sky stuff, and even if it does go ahead, it is still 10 or 12 years off," he said.

"In the interim we want them to put covers and lids on the trains. We also want them to come clean on their expansion plans.

"It is just arrogant that they are sending through one million tonnes of coal to the Port of Brisbane and want to double it.

"I used to be in the Department of Environment as an engineer and I reckon they are in breach of the public health act and clean air act."