Engineering, Freight Rail

ARTC boss rejects Inland Rail doubts

Australian Rail Track Corporation CEO John Fullerton has hit back at a story suggesting the business case for the Inland Rail project is ‘unravelling’ due to a lack of growth in coal volumes through the Port of Brisbane.

Fullerton wrote a letter to the editor published on Monday by the Australian Financial Review, firmly disagreeing with a number of assertions made in an exclusive story by the newspaper on March 26.

The story reveals 7.2 million tonnes of coal was reportedly exported from New Hope Group’s Queensland Bulk Handling terminal at the Port of Brisbane, and the terminal remains at its 10 million tonne per annum capacity. The story points to Inland Rail’s approved business case, which estimates a coal export figure of 12.9 million tonnes by 2024-25.

The story also asserts the Inland Rail line will “stop at the Queensland border,” and raises questions over the structure of the Australian Government’s equity funding model, and its incorporation into the ARTC’s balance sheet, due to the nature of its delivery model.

“Apart from misunderstanding the strategic case for building Inland Rail, [the story] had a number of inaccuracies,” Fullerton wrote in response.

“The business case is not built on coal volumes. The business case for building the project is inter-capital freight. That is, freight meeting Australia’s population growth and even-faster-growing freight demand.

“Inland Rail does not ‘stop at the Queensland border’,” he continued. “Inland Rail runs to Acacia Ridge, which has a direct dual gauge rail connection to the Port of Brisbane today.”

Furthermore, Fullerton noted 93 per cent of total benefits generated by Inland Rail will accrue to non-coal traffic, and took issue with numbers cited in the original article as required port volumes at Brisbane for non-coal freight.

“The reference to expected volumes through the Port of Brisbane is incorrect,” he wrote. “The numbers cited include inter-capital freight volumes. This is domestic freight that originates and is destined for consumption in our major cities. It is not destined for ports.”

He concluded: “We have a choice as a country. Building Inland Rail and creating a freight future our communities, motorists, future generations and our economy are asking for and expect. Or, move freight by road and expect to spend double (or more) on building more highways to meet this need.”