Inland Rail: NSW is on board

By: Andrew Hobbs

NSW has followed Victoria's Inland Rail lead, with a Port Botany rail sweetener

Inland Rail: NSW is on board
NSW deputy premier John Barilaro signs on to the Inland Rail project with infrastructure minister Michael McCormack


New South Wales has joined Victoria as the second state to sign up to the Inland Rail project, but it is one of the project sweeteners that is getting logistics groups excited.

The federal government last year committed to building the $10 billion Inland Rail line capable of moving double stacked freight containers between Melbourne and Brisbane, with Victoria formally agreeing to the project in March.

The government of NSW has today followed suit, with deputy premier and minister for regional NSW John Barilaro signing the intergovernmental deal with infrastructure minister Michael McCormack today.

Barilaro saysthe project would help reduce road and rail congestion and pave the way for the development of inland ports in regional NSW.

"Inland Rail has the potential to completely reinvigorate parts of regional NSW, well beyond the thousands of jobs that will be created in the construction phase," he adds.

"This is all about helping NSW farmers get their product from paddock to port as cheaply and efficiently as possible, and in turn, putting money back in the pockets of those producers to reinvest in their businesses or spend in their regional and rural towns."

Finance minister Mathias Cormann saysthe agreement provides certainty for the delivery of Inland Rail in NSW, and includes a commitment to negotiate a new long-term lease with the Australian Rail Track Corporation and protect the rail corridor.

"While construction for the Parkes to Narromine section will commence in the coming months, the agreement provides the guiding principles for the delivery of new sections of Inland Rail, including the 307 km corridor of new rail between Narromine and Narrabri," Cormann says.

"Inland Rail will provide the critical infrastructure needed to ensure Australia remains competitive by ensuring our freight and supply chain is modernised and productive to deal with the expected doubling of the freight task over the next 20 years."

The Inland Rail announcement was also welcomed by a group representing major rail freight operators and infrastructure owners, including Pacific National, Aurizon and Qube.

The Freight On Rail Group (FORG) of Australia said this was an historic day for rail operators and regional communities, with chair Dean Dalla Valle saying the rail lien would become a "corridor of commerce" down the eastern seaboard.

Nonetheless, he added that the long-term commercial success of Inland Rail would depend on efficient links to and from the ports of Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.

"As a prime example, duplication of the Port Botany Freight Line – as part of the Sydney Gateway project – is critical to help reduce bottlenecks and constraints on Sydney’s shared passenger and freight rail network," said he said.

Bound for Port Botany

Happily for Dalla Valle, among the sweeteners to the Inland Rail deal was a commitment that the 2018-19 federal budget would contain a $300 million allocation for that purpose.

This move was welcomed by the Australian Logistics Council (ALC), which had reiterated its call for the rail line to be made a priority the day before.

ALC managing director Michael Kilgariff says it was very pleasing the federal government had come to the party on the issue, saying it was essential to improving supply chain efficiency and safety.

"Currently, around 444,000 twenty-foot equivalent units [TEU] per year moves to and from Port Botany by rail, and this continues to grow," Kilgariff says.

"Duplicating the freight rail line at Port Botany will allow NSW orts to realise its objective of moving 3 million TEU annually by rail over the long term."

"Ensuring efficient freight rail linkages to our ports and intermodal terminals is another critical piece of the Inland Rail puzzle, if we are to reap the full economic and efficiency benefits from the substantial public investment being made in the project." 

The Australian Railway Association (ARA) also welcomed the announcements, with CEO Danny Broad saying his organisation had long been a vocal advocate for the Port Botany duplication.

"This duplication is one of Infrastructure Australia’s ‘High Priority Initiatives’ and is needed to alleviate growing road congestion; support growing intermodal operations in outer Western Sydney and position the port to meet rising freight demand," he said.

"Both of these announcements are great news for the rail industry, providing opportunities for action for the betterment of Australia’s rail infrastructure.

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