Agribusiness & Food, Logistics, Ports & Terminals, Mining and Heavy Industries

Inland Rail to add $22.5bn to economy: Truss

Coal train. Photo: ARTC

The proposed Inland Rail connection between Brisbane and Melbourne will cost around $10bn, “but not building it will cost us more,” according to federal infrastructure and regional development minister Warren Truss.

Truss, who is also deputy prime minister and leader of the Nationals, released a report from the government’s Implementation Group for Inland Rail on September 11.

“The case for the iconic Inland Rail project is not hard to make,” he said.

“It is transformational, boosting productivity for generations to come, opening up and connecting regional areas of south east Queensland, NSW and Victoria like never before and breathing new life into our economy through a high performance rail line.”

The Inland Rail Implementation Group, chaired by former deputy prime minister John Anderson, said the main freight transported along the Inland Rail corridor would be bulk and non-bulk manufacturing and construction inputs such as steel, paper, coal, grain, and non-bulk consumables such as groceries, fruit and vegetables, household furniture and appliances.

Non-bulk products would typically use most of, or the entire length of the proposed Melbourne-Brisbane line.

While the primary goal of Inland Rail is to divert those non-bulk products from roads, and the existing east coast rail line, to an inland route, the report says bulk products will benefit significantly from using smaller sections of the rail link to enhance existing product flows.

Coal is expected to represent more than half of the total demand for Inland Rail by volume in 2025, and grain is expected to make significant use of the project, as well.

“Bulk commodities such as grain and coal are … significant supply chains by volume but tend to utilise only small sections of the transport network within the corridor as they typically flow from regional areas to the nearest metropolitan area or port,” the Implementation Group report explains.

“Inland Rail is expected to take significant volumes of agricultural freight from existing regional rail lines,” the report addresses. “For example, in 2025, approximately 4.2mt of NSW grain is estimated to traverse Inland Rail to travel to the Port of Newcastle and Port Kembla.

“Thermal coal from the Surat and Clarence-Moreton basins is expected to benefit from some train operating cost savings and Inland Rail upgrades will induce further coal – around 19.5mt per annum of coal are forecast.”

Truss said the project, while expensive, would significantly benefit the Australian economy in the long term.

“Inland Rail will cost around $10 billion, but not building it will cost us more,” Truss said.

“The freight task along this corridor will treble over the next two decades. The Australian Logistics Council says for every 1% increase in efficiency in logistics, GDP is boosted by $2 billion. Just one interstate train on the Inland Railway will take 110 B-Double trucks off our roads.”

Truss’ shadow minister in the infrastructure portfolio, Anthony Albanese, accused the Nationals leader of being all talk, no action.

“Infrastructure Minister Warren Truss should stop talking about the long-awaited Inland Rail Link between Brisbane and Melbourne and start building,” Albanese said on Friday.

“Prior to the 2013 election, Mr Truss promised to ‘fast-track’ construction of the 1,730km project, which will revolutionise the movement of freight.

“But two years into his term of office, the hapless Mr Truss has failed to allocate a single dollar to the project beyond the $300 million in start-up funding allocated by the former Labor Government.”

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