The Commonwealth and Queensland state governments will together fund a joint study to investigate improvements to freight rail connections to the Port of Brisbane, including the option of a dedicated link to the Inland Rail project.
Along with exploring possible options for improved rail connections between Acacia Ridge and the Port of Brisbane, the $1.5 million study will be carried out over the next 12 months and will also reportedly focus on current and future demand and the existing infrastructure capacity for freight rail to and from the Port.
The Turnbull government’s 2017/18 Budget allocation of $8.4 billion for the Inland Rail freight line between Brisbane and Melbourne did not include funding for a link to the Port, to the consternation of many within the freight industry and Opposition figures like shadow transport minister Anthony Albanese.
Michael McCormack, deputy prime minister and federal transport minister, said that the government was now in agreement with Infrastructure Australia’s characterisation of a dedicated link to the Port as a “high priority initiative”, and indicated the study would explore this option.
“Significant analysis was undertaken as part of the 2015 Inland Rail Business Case which found the existing line could continue to service the port until 2030,” McCormack said.
“The new joint study will now assess a range of immediate and long-term options to ensure freight continues to move efficiently.”
Queensland transport minister, Mark Bailey said that the study would be undertaken by independent specialist advisors that will collaborate with various key stakeholders.
“The views of key stakeholders such as the Port of Brisbane, Brisbane City Council, Cross River Rail Delivery Authority, Queensland Rail and the Australian Rail Track Corporation will be sought as part of the study,” he said.
“The outcomes of the study will help to inform the need for a future business case and corridor protection, if required.”
Bailey also said it was necessary for the study to examine the impacts of passenger network developments on freight rail movements.
“Last year the Queensland Government announced it would fully fund and deliver the Cross River Rail Project and work has already started. Clearly, we need to understand what these projects will mean for the movement of rail freight,” he said.
“I expect that freight flows may change as a result of these network-shaping projects and increased interactions with the suburban passenger network.”