ALC Forum: Inland Rail project 'gets further boost'

By: Anjali Behl


Authorities and industry discuss prospects for Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail line

ALC Forum: Inland Rail project 'gets further boost'
(L-R) ARTC CEO John Fullerton, ALC chair Ian Murray, InterlinkSQ CEO Michelle Reynolds, Pacific National national GM intermodal Andrew Adam and Kent Boyd, Parkes Shire Council GM

 

Federal transport and infrastructure minister Darren Chester says, once completed, Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail will serve Australia for a century.

While Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) CEO John Fullerton says there are route options that can vary based on market conditions, Pacific National national GM intermodal Andrew Adam calls for a single "network owner-manager" the entire Melbourne-Brisbane line.

The comments came during the two-day Australian Logistics Council (ALC) Forum in Melbourne this week.

Chester says since most of our export goods come from regional centres, the "once-in-a-generation" Inland Rail will play a key role in moving freight along the east coast.

"The benefits will start accruing from day one, but it will serve Australia for at least the next 100 years," he says.

"It's a simple concept to grasp – a 1,700 kilometre freight rail connection between Melbourne and Brisbane that offers an alternative to the existing coastal route and bypasses the congested Sydney area.

"Inland rail will connect our regions to our ports, reduce congestion in our cities and make our roads safer and we can build it within a decade."

Chester says given the productivity and cost benefits associated with the project, it is important that it is given a clear run irrespective of potential changes in the government.

"Given our short electoral cycle, not to mention the vagaries of political fortune, my challenge in this term of government is to build momentum on this project and make its development inevitable.

"We need to make sure that no future government will undo a decision to get on with the job of building the inland rail project."

The project is expected to "create thousands of direct and indirect jobs during peak construction and hundreds of ongoing jobs per year once fully operational".

Further benefits and prospects of the Melbourne-Brisbane rail corridor were discussed during a panel discussion on Day Two of the ALC Forum.

Fullerton provided an update on the Inland Rail project, adding that market testing for the second stage was near completion and there were "lessons learnt" along the way.

He says although there have been track improvements to allow longer trains and double-stack trains and improvements on the interstate network, the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail project is a "further segment of work that we need to have world-class trains" running across Australia.

Fullerton says, based on market conditions and customer demands, there is possibility to develop a direct rail route or a multiple-stop route.

While faster trains with zero en route stops come at a greater price, having relatively slower trains that make several stops along the way can cost much less, he says.

Fullerton also pointed out that it was important to make sure that project was completed on time and not fall into the category of "continuing" tasks.

Adam lamented out how lack of rail infrastructure investment on the east coast has resulted in more freight movement on road.

Pointing out the environmental benefits, he says trucks result in four times the emissions compared to rail carrying the same amount of freight before making a case for more rail spending in regional areas.

"In the next 10 years, unless we do Inland Rail, all containerised freight on the east coast will revert to road and that would be awful for Australia," Adam says.

He says the company was willing to invest in "new rolling stock and new locos" if there were new and more efficient tracks in regional NSW.

Australian rail operators will "ramp up technology and innovation" once the basic infrastructure requirements are met.

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