THE contentious Queensland section of the inland rail appears locked in to cross the agriculturally important Condamine floodplain.
Infrastructure Minister Darren Chester is expected to make the controversial announcement in Toowoomba today despite an engineering solution not being in place and two independent reports showing there is a more appropriate route through the Felton Valley.
While Felton Valley landholders will be breathing a sigh of relief, the announcement is set to enrage affected landholders on the Condamine floodplain.
They claim the government has failed to deliver on promised consultation and continues to ignore the potentially devastating impact of the 16km long, levy-bank based infrastructure on some of Australia’s most agriculturally productive land.
Without a proper engineering solution the government is just flying by the seat of its pants.
The corridor will head from Yelarbon to Millmerran and incorporate both the competing Wellcamp Airport and the Interlink SQ at Gowrie Junction, near Toowoomba.
There is also speculation that the disputed route may also incorporate Brookstead, Pittsworth and Southbrook, further adding to community concern.
The decision appears to be premised on the calculation that the Condamine floodplain route would cost $180 million less than the construction of a line through the Felton Valley. That calculation assumes the construction costs of the different routes can be adequately compared without knowing the detailed engineering requirements of each project.
Queensland Farmers Federation president Stuart Armitage said there was ongoing support for a high speed rail linking Melbourne and Brisbane.
However, the government had failed to engage in promised consultation or demonstrated it had an appropriate engineering solution to construct the infrastructure across the deep, black soil Condamine floodplain, he said.
“Without a proper engineering solution the government is just flying by the seat of its pants,” Mr Armitage said. “We want to understand how a 16km levy bank can be constructed across the floodplain and the impact on people and their businesses.”
The $10 billion inland rail project is designed to link Melbourne and Brisbane, providing a high speed freight service that is at least as competitive as road transport.
The inland rail will terminate at Acacia Ridge, about 35km short of the Port of Brisbane, adding to concerns about how the system would provide the proposed less than 24 hours service.
Mr Chester will also be speaking the Rural Press Club in Brisbane.
Additional comment was sought from Mr Chester’s office.