COVERED coal wagons had the potential to significantly reduce coal dust emissions in areas such as the Hunter, the NSW Planning Assessment Commission believes.
The comments were in the commission’s review report on the Boggabri Coal Project in February 2012.
The commission agreed that covers would be likely to ‘‘substantially reduce coal dust emissions.’’
However, it also acknowledged that the potential operational impacts and costs were unknown.
‘‘The Commission notes that: covers are already used for rail haulage of minerals in Australia; covers have the potential to reduce aerodynamic drag; and there are ongoing plans for expansion and or duplication of the Newcastle Coal Terminal facilities, which could be designed to accept covered coal wagons,’’ the report said.
The comments are supported by many public health professionals and residents living along the Hunter’s coal train corridor.
They fear emissions from the expected increase in coal wagon traffic during the next decade could be detrimental to human health unless coal wagons are covered.
The Australian Rail and Track Corporation is investigating the level of particulate matter generated by Hunter coal trains.
The Planning Assessment Commission said is was not reasonable to require covered wagons to be used for the Boggabri project.
‘‘The commission considers that this option should be further explored, with the view to determining whether any new or expanded coal terminal should be required to have the capacity to accept covered coal wagons,’’ it said.