Australia's largest freight rail operator Aurizon has flagged the possibility of building its own rail network in Western Australia's mining-rich Pilbara.
Iron ore producer Fortescue Metals continues to negotiate over a stake in its $US3 billion port and rail infrastructure, but it is yet to reach a deal it deems favourable.
Still, Aurizon chief executive Lance Hockridge says his company, formerly known as QR National, could opt to build its own greenfield rail network.
"The concept is essentially around the heart of being open-access," he told ABC television. "It would be open to all comers as opposed to being dedicated to individual miners."
But Mr Hockridge said more worked needed to be done to advance the idea.
"I emphasise, again, it's at concept phase and we need to do a good deal more work," he said.
Iron ore miners Brockman and Atlas have previously approached Aurizon about the idea of a new rail network, but Mr Hockridge declined to confirm if mining magnate Gina Rinehart had made overtures about her Roy Hill project.
"We're talking to a wide range of people," he said.
Atlas Iron managing director Ken Brinsden told the same program that a potential Aurizon line would need multiple customers to get up.
Meanwhile, Aurizon is expecting iron ore prices to moderate, amid forecasts of a China slowdown.
"It's clearly not the kind of growth rates that we might be experiencing or indeed expecting a year or two ago," Mr Hockridge said.
But he was convinced that China still had stable growth potential, which bodes well for iron ore.
"Our view is that fundamentally this is and will remain a good business for a long time yet to come."
Mr Brinsden said he expected iron ore prices to hold above $US100 a tonne.