The federal government is seeking ideas on how to improve national connectivity and drive supply chain productivity from the 1,700km freight rail line, as part of a $44 million Inland Rail Interface Improvement Program.
Supply chain managers, local businesses, community representatives and freight and train operators are invited to submit projects for investigation under the program, according to a government statement on Tuesday.
Expressions of Interest (EOI) for the first round of business cases under the program are due by the end of October. Suitable projects will be matched with a service provider funded by the Australian Government under the program.
“The Australian Government has invested up to $9.3 billion in the construction of Inland Rail and we are committed to maximising the returns for our industries, cities and regional towns to benefit from the fast, reliable and joined-up freight network,” Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said.
Under the two-year Inland Rail II Program, there is funding for a $20 million Inland Rail Productivity Enhancement Program (PEP) to assess the costs and benefits of proposed improvements to the interface between supply chains and Inland Rail, with a view to improving supply chain and community resilience.
Another Inland Rail II program is the $24 million Inland Rail Country Lines Improvement Program (CLIP) to assess the costs and benefits of proposed improvements to country lines that intersect with Inland Rail, with a view to potentially accommodating longer, heavier and faster trains.
“A CSIRO pilot study from earlier this year demonstrated Inland Rail will bring average costs savings of $76 per tonne for key agricultural products,” Minister for Regional Services, Decentralisation and Local Government Mark Coulton said.
“We know every town and supply chain is different and a one-size-fits-all approach to connect communities to Inland Rail won’t work.
“Inland Rail will connect our regions to an enhanced national freight network, and no one knows better how to maximise these connections than regional producers and communities.
“We are encouraging local people to come forward with innovative ideas and are committed to testing value ideas through a rigorous business case process.
Under the programme, which was announced in the 2019 Budget, strategic business cases will investigate opportunities to upgrade the Gilgandra-Coonamble line, improve road/rail interface at Narrabri and enhance the connection at Baradine’s grain silo to facilitate better connections between local communities and Inland rail.
The local city council of Logan, in central Queensland, says it will provide submissions to the Committee on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport – which is currently examining the project management of Inland Rail. The council says that the proposed route runs through what will become one of the city’s most populated areas, and that residents have raised concerns over it.