Unlike other Pilbara heavy-haul lines, the new railway would be open to other operators. The first trains could be running by 2015.

Mr Ken Lewsey, QR National's executive vice-president, strategy and business development, says the Pilbara offers QR National one of the most outstanding growth opportunities in heavy-haul rail."We've been constructing and operating multi-user heavy-haul railways in Queensland's coalfields for decades," says Lewsey. "This coal network has current capacity for 250 million tonnes per annum, potentially growing to 300 million tonnes per annum by 2015. This capability is readily transferrable to the Pilbara where a number of independent miners are seeking rail transport solutions. Atlas is Australia's most developed iron-ore miner that is not hauling on rail."

Lewsey says he has been encouraged by discussions with the Western Australian government which supports infrastructure development in the region. The study is expected to be completed by the end of the year.