The Australian state of Queensland has approved a $1.1bn project to join two coal rail networks in the northern Bowen Basin coalfields to boost coal exports.

The 69km line, called the Northern Missing Link, will connect the Goonyella coal rail system to the Newlands rail system.

The project is expected to increase rail capacity to export up to 50 million tonnes of coal annually from the Newlands and Goonyella rail systems via the Abbot Point Coal Terminal.

The railway will also allow the coal miners to choose between the Abbot Point terminal or the Dalrymple Bay Coal terminal for export to the south.

Coal companies Lake Vermont and Bowen Central Coal have signed an agreement with Queensland rail as customers for the rail line and the government hopes other coal companies will follow suit.