THE Australian Government last week released the Delivery Plan for the Inland Rail project, which will connect Melbourne to Brisbane with a high-performance freight line and help to move freight transport off the road network.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development Warren Truss received the final Report of the Inland Rail Implementation Group from chair John Anderson in Canberra on Friday.
The Delivery Plan outlines a 10-year construction timeframe to complete the 1,700-kilometre project—including some 600 kilometres of new track, and puts the cost at $10 billion. Accompanying the plan is a detailed Business Case, developed by the Australian Rail Track Corporation.
"This Report and Business Case provides the information needed to consider how best to build the Inland Rail network to meet the freight challenge of the coming decades—expected to treble along the eastern seaboard to 2030," Mr Truss said.
"Inland Rail will complement existing road and rail networks and will dramatically boost productivity. Initially, it will provide for 1,800 metre long trains carrying containers stacked two high and, in the longer term, much heavier 3,600 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 kilometres and carve 500 kilometres from the Brisbane to Perth trip."
Mr Truss said the Australian Government has already committed $300 million to get pre-construction activities under way, including detailed corridor planning, environmental assessments and priority land acquisitions. This work is continuing.
"The project will create up to 16,000 direct jobs during a 10-year construction period and a regular 600 jobs once operating," Mr Truss said.
"The Delivery Plan indicates Inland Rail will generate economic benefits of around $22.5 billion.
"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 from the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development website at <https://infrastructure.gov.au/rail/inland/>. The Australian Government will now consider the report in the context of the 2016 Federal Budget.