IMPACTED landholders can now comment on the federal government’s proposed route for the largest segment of the inland rail project – the Narromine to Narrabri corridor in NSW.
Transport Minister Darren Chester today confirmed release of the preferred study corridor for the 307kms section of the Melbourne to Brisbane nation-building rail link.
The Narromine to Narrabri segment is one of 13 projects underpinning construction of the 1700kms inland rail project which was boosted by an $8.4 billion funding mechanism delivered in this year’s federal budget.
Cutting agricultural freight costs is one of the core big picture aims of the inland rail but individual farmers and impacted landowners will now be notified if they are in set to be the firing line of the proposed route in NSW.
While community and local government consultation has already been occurring for the longest segment of the track involving new and existing rail lines, including with local farmers, Mr Chester said further input would now drive progress on that section of the “transformational” Melbourne to Brisbane inland rail project.
He said the preferred corridor was chosen following community consultation and extensive engineering reports.
“The section will now proceed to the planning and approvals phase and again, community input will be essential,” he said.
Mr Chester said the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) would be working with affected landowners and communities to make sure their knowledge and experience was taken into account as the project progressed.
He said the preferred corridor best met requirements of the Inland Rail Service Offering, which was to provide a road competitive freight transport link between Melbourne and Brisbane, in under 24 hours.
“In addition, it provides the best balance between economic, community and environmental considerations,” he said.
Federal Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said the preferred study corridor would now be taken forward through the NSW government’s planning and approvals process, culminating in the ARTC preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
He said as part of preparing the EIS, the ARTC would work within the preferred study corridor to determine the most feasible design solutions and the measures that would be used to address matters like flooding, property impacts and farm operations during construction and operation.
“The inland rail freight infrastructure project would create a significant range of commercial opportunities, including in the Central West NSW region, better linking regional producers and industries to domestic and global supply chains,” he said.
“It will create the incentive for industry to explore new opportunities such as developing intermodal hubs and providing training for job seekers in a number of local communities.”
Local Nationals Parkes MP Mark Coulton welcomed progress on the Narromine to Narrabri corridor, saying it was a “critical missing link” to connect south east Queensland with regional NSW and the broader interstate rail freight network.
“This freight line will provide an avenue for freight companies that is cost-competitive with the existing road network, and will improve the competitiveness of local farmers and producers who are reliant on good transport links,” he said.
Gilgandra Shire Mayor Doug Batten said while supportive of the inland rail and positive about the opportunities it created, his Council was concerned the Narromine to Narrabri section of the project “may impact a significant number of landowners and businesses in our Shire”.
“Council is committed to working with all stakeholders to ensure the detailed design, environmental planning, landowner engagement and compensation achieve positive outcomes and minimize impacts on our community,” he said.
Mr Batten said by connecting his Council’s region with the interstate rail freight network, including market access to Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth, the inland rail would bring economic opportunity and jobs.
Local mixed farmer form Collie, Andrew Freeth - a 2015 Grains Research and Development Corporation Nuffield Scholarship holder - said a modern and cost-effective freight network would be a “game-changer” for Australian agriculture.
He said the government’s announcement of the inland rail line funding had been welcome news for growers, with productivity gains expected across the rail and port operations of Australia’s east coast.
“It is anticipated the Inland Rail will accelerate the rationalisation of the ‘upcountry’ storage network, so as to reduce transportation costs and improve profitability of supply chain operators,” he said.
“Further to this, new partnerships between grain growers, trading businesses and supply chain operators will be critical to ensure productivity improvements from mainline operations follow through to higher prices at farm-gate.”
Mr McCormack joined ARTC representatives on Wednesday for reveal survey work was underway for the Stockinbingal to Parkes 169kms section of the inland rail, which forms part of the feasibility design process to deliver the project.
“This work involves environmental, technical and engineering studies that will provide input into the Australian government’s work to get inland rail construction-ready,” he said.
“This design work will also form the basis for environmental approvals and submissions process.
“Studies that begin today include air quality and vibrations surveys; investigations into existing structures; ecological surveys to identify any flora and fauna; and cultural heritage surveys.
“Inland rail is good for business and will deliver immense opportunities for our rural and regional communities.
“I am delighted to see this work get underway and am looking forward to seeing construction start in 2018.”
The Stockinbingal to Parkes segment consists of 169kms of enhancement work to the existing rail corridor, including upgrades to existing structures and height clearance increases.