John Fullerton, Australian Rail Track Corporation CEO, said “the current route is not locked in,” at a senate inquiry hearing of the management of the Inland Rail project, held on January 30 in Brisbane.
Richard Wankmuller CEO for the Inland Rail Programme said “we understand we need to improve.”
One senator called out “Mr Fullerton, there are pitchforks waiting for you,” as the CEO addressed “white hot anger” concerns of the proposed inland rail route from QLD senators.
Fullerton said the potential “fatal flaw” is floods.
The ability to construct a public safety model that aligns with the proposed Inland Rail route through the McIntyre floodplain is the main area of concern, Fullerton stated in the hearing.
“There are a number of areas of concern that we’re looking at,” Wankmuller said.
“We’ve finished about 90 per cent of the reference design phase and we’re modifying the reference design.”
Fullerton said ARTC’s main priority is investigating floodplains and “increasing transparency”.
“I get people are scared, and it’s our obligation to [construct] something that is safe,” Wankmuller said.
“This is not just an ARTC program, that is a community program and there is no way we can be successful without community, council, and private sectors.”
Fullerton’s hearing follows criticism that the major freight rail corridor will go through one of Australia’s largest floodplains, raised from the rural Senate Committee meeting in Millmerran on Wednesday evening.
Goondiwindi Mayor Graeme Scheu said the regional council is an advocate for the project, but object ARTC’s decision-making process.
Scheu stated to the committee that the decision to announce D1 as the preferred design option “came as a major surprise to everyone in our region”.
“From the minute D1 was announced, it has been the opinion of Goondiwindi Regional Council that if the route had to cross the floodplain (primarily to appease the time restraints), then the only acceptable solution would be an elevated bridge from the Queensland side to Wearne on the NSW side,” he said.
“I must reaffirm that Goondiwindi Regional Council is supportive of the Inland Rail Project and have been for many years but the decision making process of ARTC leaves a lot to be desired.”
Goondiwindi Regional Council stated they are advocating to overturn the D1 route design option and “believes the decision should be over turned to the alternative option of A”.
“The route directly crosses the floodplain, minimising the flood potential once the Whalan escape route is fully addressed.
“Community consultation results and opinion will support Option A over D1.”
Fullerton said that “this is a complicated project that is important to people,” and recognises that engagement in the past “wasn’t up to speed”.
“We are looking where we have made the right decision or where a different decision should be made.
“There is government procedures in everything we do, we meet with the minister’s department for monthly and quarterly reporting to look at each issue.”
The Inland Rail route will be about 1,700km in length across Queensland, NSW, and Victoria and is scheduled to be completed by 2025.