Media statement on anti-coal activist involved in dangerous blocking of railway
16th February 2022
An anti-coal protestor, Megan Byrnes, who came close to being killed or seriously injured in November last year when she locked herself onto a Bowen Rail Company train stopped at signals near Collinsville in Central Queensland is appearing in Southport Magistrates Court today to face charges of trespass, contravening police direction, interfering with a railway and use of a dangerous attachment device (sleeping dragon).
On the day the lock-on occurred, the train driver was waiting for a passing train to clear the area before rejoining the main line when he became aware a protestor had locked onto a wagon further back in the train. He immediately stopped what he was doing and asked for the police to be called.
The trains travel at speeds of up to 80 kilometres per hour.
Police cut the protestor off the train and the train then safely travelled to the coal export terminal at Abbot Point as part of testing and commissioning activities.
Bowen Rail Company General Manager Brendan Lane said anti-coal protestors seemed to be oblivious to the danger they had placed themselves in.
“What this protestor did was incredibly selfish, she could have been killed or seriously injured.
“If our driver had not shown the situational awareness he did and realised activists had climbed onto a wagon, he may have had the traumatic experience of knowing that someone had been hurt or killed on his shift, and that is not something I would wish on anyone.
“The other protestors who helped the protestor to lock onto our train should also take a long hard look at themselves and ask themselves why they would put another person’s life at risk like that?
“They should think about what it would be like to make the terrible call to parents, friends and family to say someone they helped lock onto a train was dead or in hospital.”
Ms Byrnes was arrested by police and charged with a number of offences, she subsequently requested her matter be adjourned and moved from the Bowen Magistrates Court to the Southport Magistrates Court. The maximum penalty for use of a dangerous attachment device is two years’ imprisonment or a $7,000 fine.
Anti-fossil fuel activists like Ms Byrnes who illegally stop trains and lock themselves onto railway tracks and port machinery are costing Queensland funds to pay for roles such as critical health workers, teachers, and police officers.
Adani Australia CEO and Country Head Lucas Dow said the Queensland Government lost enough money in coal royalties to pay for 45 nurses’ annual salaries each time anti-fossil fuel activists blocked railway lines and stopped trains in the Bowen Basin.
“Queensland can’t afford to lose millions of dollars in royalty revenue generated by our coal industry,” Mr Dow said.
At current coal prices and foreign exchange rates that one day disruption of the Newlands rail line equates to a loss of more than $3.4 million in royalty payments to the Queensland Government. The lost revenue could have funded the annual wages for an additional 45 full-time nurses, based on an average Queensland Health Registered Nurse salary of approximately $75,000.
Mr Dow said that as well as causing serious workplace safety issues and putting their own lives at risk, anti-fossil fuel activists were robbing the State of revenue at a time when it was needed most. On September 30 this year the Queensland Health Minister and health ministers from other states and territories wrote to the Federal Government asking for “immediate additional Commonwealth funding” for hospitals.
“It’s time the Queensland Government backed hi-vis workers and made sure the penalties handed out to people who are involved in illegal protests are tough enough to deter them from reoffending,” he said.
“These extreme activists’ actions are putting workers lives at risk and robs Queenslanders of revenue which should be used to employ more nurses and teachers and build better schools, hospitals and roads.”
The train that the Ms Byrnes locked onto was one of Bowen Rail Company’s new trains that the company is testing and commissioning to ensure they are ready to operate safely and efficiently.
As is the usual process for new pieces of equipment and infrastructure, this is expected to take a period of time as the new machines and infrastructure are tested, both while hauling loads and with empty wagons.
Bowen Rail Company has been successfully recruiting local people from Bowen and the Whitsunday region for long-term jobs in the business.