DEPUTY Prime Minister Warren Truss has received a critical report today that aims to push forward on developing the “potentially iconic” inland rail project from Brisbane to Melbourne, to transform freight movement throughout Australia, including agriculture.
The report by the Inland Rail Implementation Group – chaired by former National party Deputy-PM John Anderson - outlines a Delivery Plan for building the ambitious logistics project.
Mr Truss – also the Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development – believes the high performance rail line connecting Melbourne to Brisbane, is now moving closer to implementation.
The Delivery Plan handed to government today by Mr Anderson in Canberra outlines a 10-year construction timeframe to complete the 1700km project, including about 600km of new track which aims to put the cost at $10 billion.
Accompanying the plan is a detailed Business Case, developed by the Australian Rail Track Corporation.
Mr Truss said he had asked Mr Anderson to chair the implementation group to study how the line would be best delivered and what mechanisms need to be put in place to go to the next stage.
“It’s my intention that this report will be provided to Infrastructure Australia for a review as the government moves then towards identifying appropriate ways to finance this proposal and to bring it to fruition,” he said.
“There are many parts of regional Australia that have been looking forward to this project.
“They see it as a way of providing better access to ports and providing better competition between our ports so that people are able to choose whether they want to take goods to Melbourne or Brisbane, or for that matter Perth or Newcastle or the other east coast ports that will be connected to this system.
“We believe that as the freight task grows over the decades ahead that we will need substantially increased infrastructure capability.
“The alternative to building the Melbourne to Brisbane railway line will be adding extra lanes to all of the highway networks (and) probably building new highways between the capital cities.
“Now I don’t think that is an objective that’s acceptable for social or economic reasons and therefore is an essential project to move freight around our country (and) we are committed to it.”
Project 'feasible, affordable'
Mr Truss said the implementation plan demonstrated the project was feasible, affordable and important to the nation’s future.
He said the Inland Rail network would help meet the freight challenge of the coming decades that’s expected to treble along the eastern seaboard to 2030.
“Inland Rail will complement existing road and rail networks and will dramatically boost productivity,” he said.
“Initially, it will provide for 1800 metre long trains carrying containers stacked two high and in the longer term, much heavier 3600 metre long trains.
“The new freight line will reduce transit time between Melbourne and Brisbane by more than 10 hours – reducing the journey to less than a day.
“It will remove 200,000 trucks, or 5.4 billion net tonne kilometres of freight, from roads each year.
“For the first time, south east Queensland will connect by rail to Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth, avoiding the need for freight to transit through the congested Sydney network.
“Inland Rail will reduce the distance between Melbourne and Brisbane by 200 km and carve 500 km from the Brisbane to Perth trip.”
Mr Truss said the Australian Government had already committed $300 million to get pre-construction activities underway, including detailed corridor planning, environmental assessments and priority land acquisitions with that work continuing.
He said the project would create up to 16,000 direct jobs during a 10-year construction period and a regular 600 jobs once operating.
“The Delivery Plan indicates Inland Rail will generate economic benefits of around $22.5 billion,” he said.
“Importantly, the Implementation Group has identified that an early commitment to Inland Rail will give certainty for businesses and will allow the private sector to invest in complementary projects leveraging Inland Rail’s enhanced logistics benefits.
“The Implementation Group’s analysis indicates that there is some scope for private sector funding, however, the release of this Report will now allow potential investors to consider the merits of the proposal.
“If viable alternatives emerge that are substantiated by evidence, these would be considered on their merits and referred to Infrastructure Australia as appropriate.
“As with any project of this magnitude, it is important that Australian Government fully considers the project and how best to implement and fund it.
“As part of our consideration, I am referring the business case to Infrastructure Australia.”
The full Inland Rail Implementation Group Report is available online at www.infrastructure.gov.au/rail/inland/
The federal government will now consider the report in the context of the 2016 Federal Budget, a statement said.