Inland rail the right step, ALC says

ALC backs development of inland rail, welcoming support from both sides of the politics for the project

August 9, 2010

The nation’s peak supply chain representative body has backed the development of inland rail and welcomed the bipartisan support for it from both sides of politics.

The federal Coalition last week agreed to match a funding commitment from the Federal Government to spend $20 million on a feasibility study for a high-speed rail line between Brisbane and Melbourne through NSW.

ALC CEO Michael Kilgariff says a fast rail link will take people off existing lines to help move freight more efficiently.

"ALC is especially supportive that the first stage of the study will focus on the Newcastle - Sydney corridor," Kilgariff says.

"The Sydney - Newcastle link has been identified as a massive freight bottle-neck because transport of people takes precedence over freight, acting as a national economic impediment."

The 1700km rail line is expected to cost $4.7 billion over eight years to build and will travel through central NSW. As part of the project, 600km of new track will need to be built. Another 430km of existing track will need to be upgraded.

However, the Infrastructure and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese has questioned if the Coalition will deliver on its pledge if it wins government at the August 21 poll.

"Given they held the transport portfolio for the entire duration of the former Coalition Government, the National Party had twelve long years to build this piece of rail infrastructure and chose to do nothing," Albanese says.

"What’s more, at this election, they only got onboard with this project after Federal Labor had pledged to build it if re-elected."

But even if Labor wins another term in government, work will not begin on the study.

Albanese pledged to begin three years of pre-construction work in late 2014, meaning Labor will need to win the 2013 election to begin the project. Furthermore, the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) says the link is not expected to begin until at least 2030.

According to Albanese, an inland route will improve rail’s reliability and competitiveness.

"It will provide a boost to our national economy and regional industries, especially agriculture and mining," he says.

He says the link will take trucks off highways and pressure off the existing North South line through Sydney, with the ARTC claiming the project will deliver transit times of less than 22 hours.

Money for the project will come from the Nation Building Program’s next round of funding, which is due to begin in 2014-2015.

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