The IFAP user interface

Minerals to markets: optimising transport network infrastructure for future demand

CSIRO is helping the Queensland government plan regional infrastructure for the needs of the mining industry and communities 25 years into the future.

  • 24 June 2011 | Updated 14 October 2011

CSIRO and the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR) and Queensland Department of Local Government and Planning (DLGP) are using maths-based technology to ensure the minerals-rich state has the freight transport network it needs for future demand.

TMR and DLGP are using a CSIRO-developed software tools called the Infrastructure Futures Analysis Platform (IFAP) which uniquely combines layers of maps with a mathematical optimiser.

The IFAP software can be used to determine, year by year, which infrastructure is needed to ensure efficient, cost-effective transport from mines to port and processors.

This allows holistic plans to be made for up to 25 years in the future, which can then guide infrastructure investment decisions for particular regions.

The software, thought to be a world first, can help TMR and DLGP to:

  • equitably plan for future needs of mining companies and freight operators, large and small
  • test different infrastructure budgets and determine new infrastructure budgets based on evidence
  • allow testing of different network options, comparing costs and benefits
  • factor in community safety by showing, for example, where road bypasses might need to be built or which population centres to avoid
  • allow miners, freight companies and the government to invest with greater confidence.
The software allows users to explore different layers of data such as satellite data and roads, much like Google Maps or other online map viewers do. But, unlike these, the CSIRO software gives a future view of infrastructure that hasn’t been built yet. It allows users to explore scenarios such as:
  • new roads added or existing roads widened
  • an expanded rail network or the capacity of an existing rail line is increased
  • a port is expanded or built or moved
  • new mines coming on line.

The player will show in this paragraph

CSIRO's IFAP tool uses layers of GIS maps to display information to the user.


[Image of a map appears on a screen]

[A tab at the top is opened and an option is selected]

[A dialogue box pops up and two graphs appear and are dragged to the bottom of the screen]

[The graph changes and a pointer selects a green line on the map. Once the line is selected it changes the information in the graph at the bottom of the screen]

[The pointer is moved to another green line on the map and is selected. Once the line is selected it changes the information in the graph at the bottom of the screen]

[The pointer is moved to another green line on the map and is selected. Once the line is selected it changes the information in the graph at the bottom of the screen]

[Video ends]

Case study: the Northern Economic Triangle

The first stage of the project, the building of the software tool, is complete. Now stage two will use the software to develop detailed plans for a region important to Queensland's and Australia's economy - the Northern Economic Triangle. This is the main case study area selected by the Queensland government.

This region is in North Queensland and encompasses:

  • Townsville
  • Bowen
  • Mt Isa.

This region is rich in minerals like bauxite, zinc, natural gas and more. All of these must be transported to ports like Townsville or even Brisbane both safely and efficiently.

Current infrastructure includes major rail lines and the Warrego Highway. With potential future mine or port expansions, the Queensland government wants to be confident it builds the right infrastructure for the state's needs.

By the end of the project the Queensland government will have 25 year plans showing year-by-year the optimal road and rail infrastructure for the Northern Economic Triangle.  

Other applications

The software will be used for other regions of economic importance in Queensland. CSIRO will use the software as a service to deliver the results to TMR.

Potential users of this system include:

  • infrastructure planners in other Australian states
  • owners and managers of networked infrastructure of various kinds.

The software is based on branch of mathematics called operations research which is commonly applied in logistics.

Find out more about CSIRO's work in Services science.