New South Wales has become the second state to formally join the Inland Rail project, following the signing of a bilateral agreement between the state and federal governments.
The agreement gives consent to the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) to build the Inland Rail in NSW and includes a commitment by the state government to negotiate a new long-term lease with the ARTC for the project corridor between the Queensland and Victorian borders.
“[T]he 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,” Federal finance minister Mathais Cormann said.
“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.”
In making the commitment, NSW joins Victoria, which in March became the first state to sign up to the project.
The first section to get underway in NSW will be the Parkes-Narromine section, which will involve upgrades to the existing rail corridor and the construction of a new 5.3-kilometre greenfield corridor to the Broken Hill line west of Parkes. Work is expected to begin with the next six months.
Deputy prime minister and federal infrastructure minister Michael McCormack signed the intergovernmental agreement with NSW deputy premier John Barilaro in Parkes.
McCormack called the signing a “vital step” in bringing the $10 billion, 1,700-kilometre freight rail link between Brisbane and Melbourne to fruition.
“Locals know how exciting this project is and – as a local MP – I know how Inland Rail will create local jobs and investment opportunities throughout the regions, as well as dealing with Australia’s future freight challenges well into the next century,” McCormack said.
Barilaro was keen to stress the benefits of the project to regional NSW, including the potential to pave the way for the development of inland ports.
“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,” Barilaro said.
“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.”
The Australasian Railway Association (ARA) welcomed the signing of the agreement, with CEO Danny Broad stressing Inland Rail’s potential to improve freight efficiency.
“This is much welcomed news that New South Wales is now the second state to come on board showing their commitment to the Inland Rail project,” ARA CEO Danny Broad said.
“The ARA recognises and supports the ARTC’s efforts to work with landowners and communities along the alignment to deliver the project.
“The facts are clear – road freight produces 14 times greater accident costs than rail freight per tonne kilometre and road freight produces 16 times as much carbon pollution as rail freight per tonne kilometre, making long haul rail freight the most viable option.”
In further preparation for the project’s eventual construction in NSW, nominations are now open for Community Consultative Committees, covering two greenfield sections that will run through the state – the Narromine to Narrabri and North Star to NSW and Queensland Border sections.
The committees are to provide a channel for direct feedback and information sharing between the ARTC and landholders, local businesses and residents.
McCormack said that the committees would help foster the “strong working relationships” between the ARTC, councils, stakeholders and local communities that would be “critical” to the success of Inland Rail.
“With Inland Rail set to create thousands of jobs and investment opportunities throughout regional New South Wales it is important for the community to be involved and shape the project in their region.”