Melbourne-Gladstone rail link to be fast-tracked

<p>Stage one of the proposed $2.3bn inland rail link from Melbourne to Brisbane and Gladstone has been granted major project facilitation status and will be fast-tracked, industry minister Ian MacFarlane said.</p> <p>The first stage of the project will run from Melbourne to Toowoomba via Albury, Parkes, Moree and Goondiwindi and then from Toowoomba to Brisbane and from Toowoomba to Gladstone via Moura.</p> <p>The track will accommodate 1,800-metre-long double-stacked trains running at up to 115 km&#47h and will take 27 hours to move freight between Melbourne and Brisbane.</p> <p>The Federal Government’s role in the private project is one of facilitation and in providing funds for studies.</p> <p>Trains are expected to be running to northern New South Wales on existing upgraded track within three years and onto Toowoomba by the end of 2006.</p> <p>The route into Brisbane, which will involve major engineering works, is expected to be completed by the end of 2008.</p> <p>The project is expected to ease some pressure on the existing Sydney to Newcastle and Brisbane rail network by allowing freight from Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth to be routed directly to Brisbane.</p> <p>The rail link is part of the Inland Rail Expressway project from Melbourne to Darwin developed by the Australian Transport and Energy corridor.</p> <p>The final project will cost over $10bn to develop.</p> <br />