Inland Rail to grow northern NSW by $160m in first 10 years

An in-depth report on the benefits of Inland Rail to northern NSW has found that the rail line will support $160 million worth of value of goods and services across 16 local government areas in its 10th year of operations.

In particular, sectors including food, grain, transport, and logistics are expected to benefit from additional investment once Inland Rail begins operating from Goondiwindi to Narromine.

The findings are part of an ongoing study conducted by accounting firm EY on behalf of the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications into the regional opportunities that will be derived from Inland Rail’s operation. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said that the report should motivate industry to invest in regional NSW.

“Inland Rail will provide benefits in regional communities for decades to come so we want to see industries expand outside metropolitan areas by taking advantage of the significant infrastructure we are delivering, lower land costs, resources and the ready and willing regional workforce.”

An overall report was released in March, which found that the rail line will deliver a boost of $11.5 to $13.3 billion in the first 50 years of operation.

The Northern NSW Regional Intelligence Report delves into the particular benefits that northern NSW will receive from Inland Rail. Already, the region contributes $11.5bn in gross value to the state and handles 50 million tonnes of freight a year.

In terms of jobs, the report estimates that 5,000 jobs will be created in construction across NSW, and by the 50th year of operations 360-470 full time equivalent positions will be created just in northern NSW.

In investment terms, construction will bring $2.5bn in gross state product to NSW, and by the 50th year of operations $320-360 million in gross regional product would be added to northern NSW.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said that the project would enable efficient access to global markets.

“Giving businesses and communities along Inland Rail’s path access to fast, efficient and cost-competitive freight transport will connect them to new markets and will drive new investments from industries looking to expand in our regions.”

The report highlights some investments that are currently underway. These include the Northern NSW Inland Port, which is taking $300,000 of NSW government funding for the Narrabri Shire Council to undertake an optimisation study for an intermodal facility near the Inland Rail route. Other potential investments include the expansion of food and livestock processing and growth in mining investment.

Federal member for Parkes Mark Coulton said that Inland Rail will empower regional industries.

“The time is now for industry to start planning for the coming decades and strategically position themselves to build resilience in their supply chains and take full advantage of the huge benefits Inland Rail is going to offer.”

“Inland Rail could be pivotal in shaping and sustaining long-term economic growth and prosperity in the regions along the corridor,” write the authors of the report. “With the right policy settings, Inland Rail can deliver economic growth through two response pathways – supply chain efficiencies and value chain growth.”

Industry welcomes appointment of Inland Rail expert panel

Pacific National and Wagner Corporation have welcomed the establishment of an independent panel of experts to resolve concerns regarding flooding along the Inland Rail route.

The two companies have joined as part of an initial business agreement to develop a rail freight and logistics hub in Toowoomba, alongside the Inland Rail corridor.

“Expert advice and reassurance about flood modelling and engineering solutions is urgently needed for both affected regional communities and future potential investors,” said Pacific National CEO Dean Dalla Valle.

The expert panel was formed in April 2020 and seeks to understand and alleviate the concerns of landholders on the Condamine floodplain, who have raised issues with the flood modelling which guided the design of Inland Rail. The panel’s draft Terms of Reference are currently available for public comment.

Dalla Valle said that the formation of the panel and the adoption of its findings is essential to realising the estimated $13.3 billion in benefits of the freight rail line.

“Make no mistake, in the current economic climate, private sector investment along the Inland Rail route will quickly dry up if this project gets ‘stuck in the mud’ on the Condamine Floodplain.”

As a leader of a locally-based business, non-executive chairman of Wagner Corporation John Wagner said that the panel was a step in the right direction.

“I’m heartened to see the Australian Government placing a keen focus and effort on resolving any remaining hydrological and engineering issues of the Inland Rail project across the Condamine Floodplain.”

Pacific National and Wagner Corporation highlighted that once the project passes its final hurdles, the community will immediately benefit.

“Inland Rail is largely a shovel-ready project, meaning hundreds of Queensland construction workers, contractors and suppliers can be mobilised quickly to help revive regional economies hard hit by years of drought and now the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic,” said Wagner.

The partnership between Pacific National and Wagner Corporation is one example of the step change that could occur in Australia’s logistics network and supply chains. The companies are exploring the development of a rail to air intermodal terminal in Toowoomba that could export rail borne freight internationally from Toowoomba, via the Wellcamp international airport, located next to the proposed intermodal terminal. The logistics hub would also enable primary producers in the Darling Downs access to the national rail freight network, said Wagner.

“Wellcamp Business Park is the perfect place to develop a major logistics hub in south east Queensland. The Darling Downs is one of the most productive agricultural regions in Australia, while Toowoomba is an incredibly progressive and vibrant regional city.”

Dalla Valle also highlighted the community benefits that come with getting more freight on rail.

“Integrated with Inland Rail, a future Wellcamp Logistics Hub would help reduce road accidents and fatalities, traffic congestion, vehicle emissions, and road ‘wear and tear’,” said Dalla Valle.

Pacific National

Rail showcasing what’s possible in regional Australia

Smart thinking between Pacific National and Wagner Corporation highlights the many possibilities of rail freight.

News broke in early March that two powerhouses of regional transport and logistics were coming together for potentially Australia’s only rail-air intermodal terminal.

Pacific National and Wagner Corporation are now deep into discussions for a major logistics hub at Wellcamp Business Park, just outside of Toowoomba.

The two companies are looking to build a 250ha logistics hub at the site next to the Toowoomba Wellcamp Airport, said Pacific National CEO, Dean Dalla Valle.

“The proposed 250-hectare Wellcamp Logistics Hub also has frontage to the future Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail project, allowing extensive future intermodal operations for freight to be transferred between trains, planes and trucks,” he said.

The future Wellcamp Logistics Hub would include 2.7 kilometres of frontage to the rail corridor, allowing for 1,800m long freight trains to operate.

Daily cargo jet flights operate from a fully licensed and bonded international air cargo terminal next door, and the site has the potential to process up to 350,000 shipping containers by 2030, and up to half a million by 2040. The airport in question, the Toowoomba Wellcamp Airport, is owned by the Wagner Corporation, and is an example of how that company has pedigree when it comes to innovative investing in regional logistics.

The family-owned property and infrastructure developer was behind the first, privately funded major airport, built on an old quarry site owned by the Wagner family. Today, the airport connects Toowoomba and the surrounding Darling Downs region not only to domestic jet services, but also direct freight connections to Hong Kong with weekly flights operated by Cathay Pacific Cargo.

Building and operating an intermodal terminal next door, at the connected Wellcamp Business Park, allows for rail freight services along in the Inland Rail corridor to connect to global freight and logistics supply chains.

While such a connection between rail and freight would be new for Australia, it has been successfully adopted elsewhere. In Germany, the Leipzig-Halle airport forms logistics company DHL’s European hub, with plans for a network of high-speed rail spanning from the airport. Despite being the 11th largest airport in Germany for passengers, the regional airport is the second largest in the country in terms of freight, and the 5th busiest in Europe.

Similarly, at the Paris Charles de Gaulle airport in France, two air-rail cargo interchanges allow for air cargo to be seamlessly transported from air to a high- speed rail network connecting France, Belgium, and the UK.

Although both these projects have had a focus on moving mail and parcels, rather than bulk cargos, there is potential for rail to air freight playing a role in the movement of food and produce. Here, the Darling Downs can play its part as the food bowl of South- East Queensland, and a producer of foodstuffs intended for export to growing markets in Hong Kong and Asia. As Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) CEO John Fullerton outlined, locating intermodal freight and expert facilities close to where the food is being produced, allows for value adding in terms of advanced processing and packaging occurring locally, ensuring these benefits remain in the community.

“Inland Rail is a once in a lifetime project which will better link regional businesses to our fast-growing capital cities, farmers and producers to national and global markets, generate new opportunities for industries and regions and reduce large truck congestion on our roads.”

Inland rail leads to spark
The initial idea for the project came from another transformative Pacific National intermodal terminal, 800 kilometres south. The idea of being the private developer behind an intermodal terminal came to John Wagner, non-executive chairman of the Wagner Corporation, when he saw what other projects were underway in Parkes.

“When Wagner Corporation attended the October 2019 opening of Pacific National’s logistics terminal in Parkes – also located on the Inland Rail alignment – it gave us an exciting picture of what could be achieved with future rail freight services at Wellcamp,” he said.

The potential for rail to improve communities was also highlighted by Fullerton.

“The growth opportunities are endless, with Inland Rail unlocking job security potential not seen in decades through strategic industry investment.”

Partly due to the region’s topography, Toowoomba and the Darling Downs region had lacked interstate rail freight connections and was thus unable to access the benefits of rail transportation. Not only will the future hub improve supply chains, but lead to community benefits, highlighted Dalla Valle.

“Integrated with Inland Rail, a future Wellcamp Logistics Hub would help reduce road accidents and fatalities, traffic congestion, vehicle emissions, and road ‘wear and tear’,” he said.

“Picture this – at a minimum, a 1,800-metre- long freight train hauling shipping containers is equivalent to removing 140 B-double return truck trips from our roads.”

Freight rail delivering community benefits
The Wellcamp Logistics Hub announcement is tangible evidence of the $13.3 billion in benefits that a new report estimates that Inland Rail will bring to regional communities along the alignment.

Prepared by consultancy EY on behalf of the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications, the report identified the key role that intermodal hubs would play in Inland Rail’s delivery of billions of dollars of economic benefit back to regional communities over the next 50 years.

The report found two key growth pathways as a result of Inland Rail, Supply Chain Efficiencies and Value Chain Growth.

Prepared in 2019, the report accurately predicted the kinds of outcomes that the Wellcamp Business Park could deliver.

“Inland Rail may lead to a reorganisation of supply chains and fundamentally change how freight is moved in Australia,” write the authors of the report.

The findings, spread across the four regions of South-East Queensland, northern NSW, southern NSW and Victoria, point to how greater connectivity can benefit regional communities, said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack.

“Inland Rail gives these communities new ways to grow and rebuild with better connections to interstate and international markets, new jobs and a stronger case for attracting public and private investment.”

Fullerton reiterated the importance of rail in exporting Australia’s commodities.

“Without freight trains, bulk exports like grain, meat, fresh and dry produce, cotton and coal cannot be efficiently hauled to ports, the gateways to global markets.”

While the Inland Rail project itself may be focused on ensuring that the rail corridor is built, to access the benefits of such a major infrastructure project, the links between Inland Rail and the communities it serves will be essential. Demonstrating this, the EY report found that in each of the regions studied, intermodal terminals opening from 0-10 years after the completion of the Inland Rail project will be part of the first wave of investment.

As nodes within the network, Fullerton highlighted the role that intermodal hubs will play.

“Intermodal freight hubs drive increased investment, growth and more jobs across regional Australia the added safety and environmental benefits of shifting more freight volumes from trucks to trains.”

These are then expected to lead to the development of industry hubs, which take advantage of the supply chain efficiencies offered by Inland Rail and congregate complementary businesses. In the case of the Darling Downs and South East Queensland, this could see grain and cotton being transported to the Wellcamp Logistics Hub, manufactured at the Wellcamp Business Park and then shipped by Pacific National on rail to other locations in Australia or via air to the globe.

As a comparative example, EY looked to the Santa Teresa Intermodal Facility in New Mexico, as an example of how an intermodal terminal can lead to the aggregation of businesses, not only in the transport and logistics sectors, but manufacturing and professional services.

Mark Campbell

New CEO announced for ARTC

Mark Campbell is the new CEO of the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC).

Campbell will take over from John Fullerton after his appointment was confirmed by the board of the ARTC.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack welcomed Campbell to the top of the national rail track manager.

“We look forward to working closely with Campbell and continuing a strong professional relationship with the ARTC board and management as we deliver the 1,700-kilometre Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail and improve and maintain some 8,500 kilometres of rail,” said McCormack.

Campbell will oversee some of the many projects that Fullerton led, including the Inland Rail project which began during Fullerton’s time as CEO, as well as improvements to Australia’s national freight network. Finance Minister Mathias Cormann thanked Fullerton for his time at the head of ARTC.

“During Fullerton’s tenure, the ARTC made significant improvements to the efficiency and competitiveness of Australia’s interstate rail network.

“The ARTC also commenced delivery of Inland Rail under Fullerton’s leadership. Inland Rail will be the spine of Australia’s freight network, supporting 16,000 jobs during construction and providing a $16 billion boost to our national economy over the long term.”

Warren Truss, ARTC chairman, welcomed Campbell to the organisation and acknowledged the work done by Fullerton.

“We look forward to Campbell leading ARTC into an exciting future for Australia’s rail sector, which is set to play an increased role in the freight and transport industry over the next decade to help drive national productivity and the economic growth of the nation.

“On behalf of the ARTC Board, I would like to pay tribute to Fullerton for his outstanding career in the rail industry, which has spanned more than 40 years, including the past nine as head of ARTC. Unyielding in his efforts to promote the value of rail and transport supply chains to the national economy, Fullerton’s knowledge and guidance will be greatly missed, but we wish him every happiness in the future.”

Australasian Railway Association (ARA) CEO Caroline Wilkie welcomed Campbell’s appointment and thanked Fullerton for his work in the rail industry.

“Under his leadership, the ARTC has been reinvigorated through a wide-reaching transformation program that has seen the company become more competitive, customer-focused and results-oriented.”

Fullerton has put in place an organisation with the capacity to construct and maintain billions of dollars’ worth of rail infrastructure, and led change within ARTC itself, resulting in major advances in the company’s safety performance, customer focus, and asset improvement.”

Kirk Coningham, CEO of the Australian Logistics Council (ALC) highlighted the significant steps forward taken during Fullerton’s time as CEO.

“The decision of the Federal Government to fund the construction of Inland Rail in 2017 was a watershed moment, following many years of advocacy by our organisation and the leading transport and logistics companies we represent.

The success of the industry-led Inland Rail Conference first staged by ALC and the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) in Parkes in 2018 and then in Toowoomba last year was greatly enhanced by ARTC’s active support, and in particular by Fullerton’s commitment to ensuring regional communities share in the economic benefits of this once-in-a-generation freight infrastructure project.”

Campbell was most recently the CEO and managing director of Holcim Australia and New Zealand, which supplies aggregates, concrete, and concrete products in Australia and New Zealand. Prior to Holcim, Campbell worked in other construction materials and quarrying companies in Australia, Malaysia, and the UK and has a background in civil engineering.

“Campbell’s extensive prior experience in the construction and infrastructure sectors means he is well-placed to continue driving the improvements to rail infrastructure and safety which are at the heart of all ARTC’s activities,” said Coningham.

“ALC looks forward to working closely with Mr Campbell and the entire ARTC team when he takes up his new position.”

A resilient freight network is key in times of uncertainty

In her column, CEO of the Australasian Railway Association Caroline Wilkie highlights that Australia’s rail freight network is facing challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic but its importance now is greater than ever.

Australia’s population is forecast to double by 2070, reaching almost 45 million people. This growing population requires an increased allocation of goods, adding pressure on our existing freight networks to deliver. According to the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy, Australia’s freight task is expected to grow by over 35 per cent between 2018 and 2040, an increase of 270 billion tonnes, bringing the total volume moved to just over 1,000 billion tonne-kilometres.

The role of rail freight is critical in meeting this future demand and maintaining our international competitiveness. The Value of Rail study commissioned by ARA in 2017 highlights that a one per cent improvement in freight productivity could generate $8-20 billion in savings to the national economy over 20 years. Rail freight provides a cost-effective, safe and environmentally sound solution for reducing congestion from heavy vehicles on urban, regional, and interstate roads. Just one freight train alone can take 110 trucks off our already congested roads and rail is up to nine times safer than road freight. In light of these significant benefits, the ARA is working with governments and industry on behalf of our members to get more freight on to rail, and to improve the efficiency and productivity of Australia’s rail freight supply chains. Achieving modal shift to rail is critical to increasing economic growth, improving the liveability of our cities and supporting regional communities.

Delivery of the Inland Rail project is an important step in achieving this. This nation building project will see a 1,700km freight rail line directly connecting Melbourne and Brisbane, via Toowoomba, Parkes, and Albury. The route will utilise approximately 1,100 km of upgraded existing track and 600 km of new track in Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria. Most importantly though, it will bypass the heavily congested Sydney network and bring rail freight travel times between Melbourne and Brisbane down from 33 hours to less than 24 hours. This is a game changer and will make rail freight much more competitive over long haulage routes.

In a period of economic uncertainty, the Inland Rail project is bringing a much needed boost to the economy. Construction is already underway on the Parkes to Narromine project and planning is well advanced on a number of other sections. Approximately $747m has already been spent, with much of this spend being injected into rural communities.

Inland Rail has been in the public domain for over fifteen years. It is also one of the most heavily studied projects in recent Australian history, having been through an extensive consultation, planning, route analysis, engineering and costing process.

We are aware of issues that have been raised in relation to flooding of the Condamine crossing in Queensland.

Without a doubt, the project is receiving the best possible expert advice and can manage these issues using tested and proven mitigation measures. These issues need to be worked through carefully and collaboratively, but they should not delay the delivery of the project.

The delivery of Inland Rail is a start, but more must be done. Investment in rail freight delivers enormous benefits in the long term. Improved supply chain connectivity and productivity benefits the economy and the environment and helps provide resilience in the face of emergencies like to COVID-19 pandemic.

The current crisis has just reinforced the importance of a highly productive and efficient supply chain. This unprecedented event has challenged our supply chain like never before, but our rail freight members continue to ensure that essential goods such as canned food, toilet paper, and cleaning products are moving across the country and to customers.

When state border crossing restrictions came into force in later March, the ARA wrote to state and the Commonwealth transport minsters to ensure rail freight was considered an essential service and exempt from border restrictions.

However, the stark difference between road and rail freight regulation is never more apparent than it is during times like these. Regulation by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) has a focus on both safety and productivity, whereas the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator (ONRSR’s) remit is purely safety-related.

The ARA have long held the view that we must take a national approach with all modes working together to deliver an integrated freight market. However, this approach can only work if all modes operate from a level playing field with equal treatment in terms of access pricing, government policies, and the role of productivity in regulation.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, trucks were able to have curfews lifted to extend delivery windows in NSW and Queensland. However, due to the nature of our infrastructure and the shared tracks of passenger and rail networks, our industry does not have the same flexibility. As a result, we must look for other solutions to improve the productivity of rail freight.

Rail freight operators are committed to the highest levels of safety compliance but are routinely challenged by Rail Safety National Law (RSNL) derogations that exist, most notably the differing fatigue management requirements in NSW and Queensland, and the different drug and alcohol management requirements in NSW.

As I outlined in my March 2020 article, these inconsistent, state-based regulatory requirements go against the objective of national regulation and add costs to rail freight without any proven safety benefit. The ARA believes that multiple layers of often conflicting regulation impacts rail freight productivity.

A modern, risk-based approach to rail safety that focuses on productivity will improve our supply chain resilience and unlock significant economic and environmental benefits for the whole country.

Further consultation on the Inland Rail flood modelling design

Members of the public are being invited to have their say on the proposed flood modelling and structural design of the Inland Rail construction.

A panel of experts is being called on by the federal and Queensland governments to provide public consultation on the draft Terms of Reference for the Australian Rail Track Corporation’s (ARTC) freight rail line that will cross the Condamine floodplain in Queensland.

Michael McCormack, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development said the Independent Panel of Experts will include hydrologists and engineer experts.

The independent expert panel chosen to review ARTC’s flood modelling and design will include experts with international experience and will operate at arm’s length from ARTC.

McCormack said the public consultation will reaffirm Inland Rail’s commitment to an engineering solution.

“We understand the legitimate concerns landholders have about constructing infrastructure where our farmers and communities have experienced floods – which is why the Independent Panel of Experts is important to provide public safety assurance for Inland Rail,” the Deputy Prime Minister said.

McCormack said extensive work has already been undertaken by the ARTC and by Australian experts to develop and test flood modelling that will guide the structural design of Inland Rail as it crosses flood prone areas.

Mathias Cormann, Finance Minister, said the government was committed to working with affected communities and experts.

“This expert panel will provide reassurance around Inland Rail’s hydrology and engineering solutions, ensuring that Queenslanders can benefit from 7,200 jobs and from a boost of more than $7 billion which Inland Rail will deliver to the Queensland economy,” he said.

Mark Bailey, Queensland Minister for Transport and Main Roads said the Condamine floodplain is a complex and dynamic part of Queensland.

“The engineering solution for Inland Rail to cross the Condamine must address this, taking into account local hydraulic and hydrology patterns and local knowledge,” he said.

“The expert panel will review ARTC’s flood modelling and proposed designs against the best practice in a floodplain environment and provide advice to the Commonwealth, the State and the ARTC.”

The draft Terms of Reference is available via email for stakeholders.

Inland rail continues major construction with added safety measures

Inland Rail’s construction is continuing along with other major construction projects, with the safe delivery of freight and transport infrastructure a high priority.

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) has implemented additional public health and safety measures on national rail infrastructure projects during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Michael McCormack, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development said he has the confidence that all necessary precautions are being taken to protect workers and the communities in which they operate.

“Now more than ever, we need these essential construction services and the economic stimulus to continue, not just to keep people in work, but to ensure we’re in the best place possible to build momentum when we see through this global health crisis,” he said.

“Additional measures put in place by the ARTC and its contractors to protect the health and safety of workers and the local community mean we can continue to deliver projects, such as the transformational Inland Rail.”

McCormack said everyone relies on the freight network to deliver the essential supplies such as food, medicine, and medical equipment, which are critical now more than ever.

“I thank the freight and construction workers who are essential to maintaining our supply chains and laying the ground work for Australia’s freight future,” he said.

More than 1,700 people have worked on Inland Rail since construction began, including 667 locals on the Parkes to Narromine project.

McCormack said the economic injection from this project has been immense with $89 million spent with local businesses and 97 local businesses engaged as suppliers.

More than 165,000 tonnes of ballast has been laid and one million tonnes of earthworks completed since the first sod was turned in Parkes in December 2018.

A total 70km of the 103-kilometre Parkes to Narromine section of Inland Rail is now complete, with final ancillary work under way.

Mathias Cormann, finance minister, said Inland Rail will deliver a $16 billion boost to gross domestic product during construction and the first 50 years of operation.

“Inland Rail will support 5,000 jobs in New South Wales and we are already seeing the benefits of this in Parkes and the surrounding region, with a boost to employment and supplier contracts flowing from construction,” he said.

Cormann said the government is committed to Inland Rail to build Australia’s freight capability and meet increasing demands.

“We are very happy that this vital work can continue safely,” he said.

“It is important that we progress these long-term infrastructure projects to create jobs for Australians, sustain economic activity and to support the recovery on the other side of the COVID-19 crisis.”

Inland Rail awards $80,000 in scholarships

Four regional students have been awarded scholarships valued at up to $20,000 each as part of the Australian Rail Track Corporation’s (ARTC) Inland Rail scholarship program.

The four students from regional Queensland are the first to be awarded scholarships under ARTC’s Inland Rail Skills Academy.

The scholarships for the University of Southern Queensland will provide the four students with support from Inland Rail as they continue their studies at the university.

In announcing the scholarships, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said the Inland Rail Skills Academy was investing in Australia’s youth.

“Along with 16,000 jobs created during Inland Rail’s construction, this is a long term investment in young people and a commitment to support jobs and skill development through the delivery of Inland Rail,” McCormack said.

“Every person trained through Inland Rail will have skills and expertise to take back to their communities, wherever they are in Australia, which will help boost local economies.”

The ARTC’s scholarship program is open to undergraduate students living in areas close to the Inland Rail route, giving financial assistance of $5,000 per year to study with a total value of up to $20,000 each.

Mathias Cormann, minister for finance said that beyond the $16 billion boost from its construction, Inland Rail can add another $13 billion in value to gross regional product over its first 50 years, depending on the conditions to invest along the rail line.

“It’s good to see the Inland Rail Skills Academy doing their part to build the workforce capability that will attract and retain investment to regional Australia and boost economic output for the long-term,” he said.

“It’s fantastic that Inland Rail is providing financial support to regional students who might struggle to afford tertiary education – giving them the opportunity to graduate into fulfilling careers and give back to their communities,” Geraldine Mackenzie, University of Southern Queensland’s vice chancellor said.

Awardees of these Queensland scholarships include Sophie Boon, Samuel Butler, Rebecca Hallahan, and Braidyn Newitt.

Rebecca Pickering, ARTC’s Inland Rail director for community and environment said the academy was keen to support students by providing opportunities for them to graduate into careers, which add value to their local regions.

“These scholarships and the employment opportunities they unlock will act as a catalyst for positive change in many regional communities along the Inland Rail alignment. And we are delighted to partner with the University of Southern Queensland in support of our locals,” Pickering said.

Intermodal hubs and freight infrastructure among new $44m Inland Rail developments

16 local project proposals will be developed as part of the Australian Government’s $44 million Inland Rail Interface Improvement Program.

Michael McCormack, Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development has announced an EY Australia-led consortium has been commissioned to further develop Inland Rail interface improvements.

“Sixteen projects were found eligible in this first round of applications, and those groups are now working with the EY-led consortium to develop pre-feasibility studies, feasibility studies, and strategic business cases,” he said.

McCormack said an intermodal facility at Mangalore, expanded freight infrastructure in the Riverina, and rail upgrades between Kurumbul to Thallon are projects that are being supported through the Interface Improvement Program.

“Inland Rail has always been about far more than building a rail line – it’s about investing in our national freight network, enhancing supply chains, and bringing jobs and economic opportunity to regional Australia,” McCormack said.

“Large infrastructure projects deliver great stimulus to the national economy – Inland Rail, for example, will boost GDP by $16 billion and support 16,000 jobs during construction,” he said.

Mark Coulton, Minister for Regional Health, Regional Communications and Local Government said the Inland Rail Interface Improvement Program is investigating options for regions to maximise their connections to this national freight network.

Coulton said new supply chains enabled by Inland Rail stretch well beyond the tracks connecting Melbourne and Brisbane.

“We are backing local ideas because we know that the connections to Inland Rail will be critical to create economic uplift and ongoing jobs in our regions,” he said.

Proposals received through the Expression of Interest process were assessed by the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications, and by its independent assurance and technical advisor.

Proposals will be developed through pre-feasibility or feasibility studies and strategic business cases, depending on the individual project proposal.

Eligibility to progress through to an appropriate assessment gateway for proposal development was assessed against the Interface Improvement Program principles and information requirements including supporting regional economic growth, capacity to increase Inland Rail throughput and supporting National Freight and Supply Chain Priorities.

Mathias Cormann, Finance Minister, said Inland Rail would change the way freight is moved around Australia, offering a fast and efficient alternative to complement long-haul road transport along Australia’s east coast.

“Now more than ever, our investment in Inland Rail is vital to build resilience in the national freight network that provides an essential service to Australians – delivering the inputs needed to drive small business and fuel our national economy,” he said.

“Our commitment through the Interface Improvement Program will further enhance community and industry connectivity to Inland Rail, and ensure our producers and manufacturers remain competitive.”

McCormack said the complementary businesses, manufacturers, and logistics hubs that establish along this freight rail line will provide sustained employment for people in regional Australia and boost gross regional product by up to $13.3bn over the long term.

The 1,700-kilometre Inland Rail line will connect Melbourne, Brisbane and regional areas through fast and reliable freight rail and will create around 16,000 jobs during the construction phase, while supporting approximately 700 jobs once it is operational.

Rail a major component in $50bn Qld infrastructure spend

Rail had the largest growth in funded infrastructure in Queensland in 2020, according to the recently released Queensland Major Project Pipeline (QLDMPP) report.

A joint initiative of the Queensland Major Contractors Association (QMCA) and the Infrastructure Association of Queensland (IAQ), the report outlines the total pipeline of major infrastructure projects, adding up to over $50 billion of planned, funded, and in construction works.

QMCA CEO, Jon Davies was enthused about the pipeline.

“We are delighted to see significant growth in the pipeline, with works totalling $50.6bn scheduled between 2019/20 and 2023/24.”

While the largest sector is the resources and heavy industry sector, the $6.68bn worth of announced projects in that sector are not yet funded.

“However, there is still an element of risk around the total figure as $23.2bn of work is not funded at this stage. This is mostly down to planned resources and energy projects which take considerable time to plan, fund and gain approval,” said Davies.

The rail project pipeline increased by $1.74bn in funded projects and $1.03bn in unfunded projects from the 2019 to 2020 version of the report, with multiple large rail projects in the state receiving funding.

“Overall there are reasons to be optimistic, with many major projects such as Inland Rail, Cross River Rail, Brisbane Metro and upgrades to the M1, Bruce Highway and essential water infrastructure developments beginning in earnest.”

Geographically, the projects in the QLDMPP report were largely concentrated in south-east Queensland, with 40 per cent of all funded work there.

Larger projects were receiving a greater share of funding and announcements, with 70 per cent of projects by 2023/24 being valued above $500 million.

Emerging challenges could include a skills shortage in the road and rail sectors, however opportunity could come in the form of the mooted 2032 SEQ Olympics bid, which would require projects such as faster rail links between Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, and Ipswich to be advanced prior to the games.