TWO new rail bridges will be built in central-west NSW according to specifications that align with the inland rail project’s capacity to carry heavier trains loaded with more farm produce - signalling further steps forward on the ambitious, nation-building project.
The inland rail line from Brisbane to Melbourne has been identified by the National Farmers’ Federation as a high priority, strategic infrastructure project that can help cut transport costs for farmers and increase export potential, into key Asian markets.
Today, Transport Minister Darren Chester joined with Small Business Minister Michael McCormack and Parkes Mayor Ken Keith to reveal two rail bridges would be built at Tomingley West and Narwonah next month.
A statement from the government today said the $1.3 million project would see two timber bridges replaced by reinforced concrete culvert structures, designed and built to the inland rail’s engineering specifications.
The bridges between Parkes and Narromine are situated on the Australian Rail Track Corporation’s (ARTC) national rail network and will support delivery of the inland rail when construction ultimately begins.
Mr Chester said the upgrades were particularly significant as the new structures would meet the inland rail ‘standard’ meaning that section of the track was “future proofed” for longer, heavier and more efficient trains.
“This project is the biggest rail project in the past 100 years,” Mr Chester said of the inland rail.
“In terms of the Melbourne Brisbane inland rail project, for the first time, it’ll be linking up Melbourne and Brisbane and the eastern states to the western states.”
Mr Chester said the Turnbull-Joyce government had already put $894m on the table for the inland rail project but more work needed to be done and the Coalition was “looking forward to getting on with the job”.
He said the central-west region of NSW, where the two new bridges are to be constructed, would play a major role in delivering the inland rail and was set to see $480m in economic benefits from the “nationally significant” rail project.
“One inland rail train will support the movement of approximately 2500 tonnes of freight in a single trip, equivalent to taking 110 B-double trucks off the roads,” he said.
Mr McCormack said it was necessary to upgrade the two bridges to higher specifications, to handle potential future demand, as the inland rail program came to fruition.
He said building the bridges between Parkes and Narromine would “future proof” the rail line for the inland rail’s future and that of NSW and the Parkes Shire Council.
“This section of the rail freight network already supports the movement of container, bulk, and general freight services with agricultural commodities such as grain, consolidated regional freight, and mineral concentrates,” he said.
The Parkes to Narromine section of the inland pail project involves upgrading the existing 107 kilometres of track.
Overall, the inland rail project takes advantage of 1200kms of existing rail corridor and will involve the construction of around 600km of new track.
Mr Keith said the Parkes region was being developing into a national logistics hub because of its strategic location at the inter section of the networks’ east-west and north-south links.
He said he was pleased the federal government was moving forward with “this important national project”.
The Australian Logistics Council said the announcement of the two new railway bridges being constructed in regional NSW, was further evidence of progress being made in the inland rail’s construction.
ALC Managing Director Michael Kilgariff said replacing timber bridges with reinforced concrete structures was an important step in making certain existing rail infrastructure would support the inland rail’s delivery.
“Our 2017-2018 budget submission called on the Federal Government to make a solid funding commitment that will finally allow construction of Inland Rail to commence,” he said.
Mr McCormack said Parkes was where the north-south and the east-west rail lines intersected and was the hub of “such a great agricultural region” and commerce.
“This area produces so much,” he said.
“It’s a service hub, it’s very much the heart of an agricultural region, it is a place where you can in the future and certainly even now get product to market, product to port, with 80 per cent of Australia’s population encountered in just 24 hours.
“And that’s only going to be enhanced by today’s announcement of $1.3 million to replace two timber bridges: one at Narraweena, and the other at Tomingley West.”
Mr Keith said his group had been working with the ARTC on their environmental and corridor studies along the Parkes-Narromine route, and was “getting very close” to having a public exhibition after if passed through all the planning processes.