Engineering, Freight Rail, Research & Development

Bulk, non-bulk to draw separate benefits from Inland Rail

TasRail Wagons. Photo: TasRail

John Anderson’s report into the proposed Inland Rail line between Melbourne and Brisbane has detailed how both bulk and non-bulk freight operators will draw value from the project.

The report from the Inland Rail Implementation Group, chaired by former deputy prime minister John Anderson, was released on September 11.

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It 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, if not the entire length of the proposed Melbourne-Brisbane line. This is reflected by the primary goal of Inland Rail: to remove viable non-bulk freight from roads and the existing east coast rail line.

Bulk products, however, will benefit significantly from Inland Rail in their own way: Coal is expected to represent more than half of the total demand for Inland Rail by volume in 2025, and grain is also expected to make significant use of the project.

Inland Rail will provide bulk producers and exporters the ability to use smaller sections of the rail link to enhance their existing freight flows, the report explains.

“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 states.

“Inland Rail is expected to take significant volumes of agricultural freight from existing regional rail lines,” the report addresses. “For example, in 2025, approximately 4.2 million tonnes 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 19.5 million tonnes per annum of coal are forecast.”

Deputy prime minister and minister for infrastructure and regional development Warren 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 case for the iconic Inland Rail project is not hard to make.”

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

“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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