Safety improvements, environmental gains and cost of living are among the key benefits identified by the Inland Rail Implementation Group in its Friday report.
The Implementation Group, chaired by former deputy prime minister John Anderson, handed its report to the Australian Government on August 24.
The paper, released by deputy prime minister Warren Truss at the end of last week, describes the proposed Inland Rail corridor between Melbourne and Brisbane as “one of the most important and dense general freight routes in Australia, supporting the most significant population, employment and economic areas in the nation”.
It should come as no surprise, then, that the Implementation Group was able to find seven separate key benefits to the proposed Inland Rail line. They were as follows:
1. Strategic benefits: Perhaps the most basic benefit outlined in the report is that Inland Rail would improve the productivity and efficiency of the Australian economy, by providing a “backbone link” in the eastern Australian rail and road network.
Other strategic benefits include the expansion and enhancement of the national standard gauge network, the removal of a large portion of expensive future road freight, and the greater regional economic development, particularly along the Inland Rail corridor.
2. Benefits to regional markets: The report estimates Inland Rail would improve access to and from regional markets enough to immediately move 2 million tonnes of annual agricultural freight from road to rail. By 2050, that figure is estimated to increase to roughly 8.9 million tonnes.
3. Environmental benefits: Moving existing and new freight from roads to rail is estimated to result in 750,000 tonnes less carbon being created each year by 2050.
4. Safety and amenity gains: The report estimates Inland Rail will remove 200,000 truck movements from roads each year, reducing congestion, reducing the burden on roads, and improving safety.
“On the basis that one interstate train on the Inland Railway is the equivalent of approximately 110 B-doubles, Inland Rail in 2050 would reduce the freight task’s carbon footprint by 750,000 tonnes and result in 15 fewer serious road crashes each year.”
Inland Rail would reduce truck volumes in over 20 regional towns.
Additionally, the report notes, rail can provide a more reliable method of keeping track of goods in transit, with modern GPS controlled train movements through the Advanced Train Management System.
“Inland Rail will provide an open access, standard gauge rail connection that is interoperable with the rest of the national rail network, and will be supported by a modern GPS-based Advanced Train Management System that replaces traditional line-side signalling and allows for more effective, efficient and safer train control,” the report explains.
“Each train ‘knows’ where it is on the network and can be automatically braked if it exceeds speed or does not have permission to be on a section of track.”
5. Improving the price of goods: It’s estimated in the report that Inland Rail would provide savings of $10 per tonne for Melbourne-Brisbane inter-capital freight, and would also “significantly improve” rail connections between eastern Australian regional areas and the east coast ports.
The trickle-down effect of this is lower prices for consumers, which in turn reduces the cost of living – a key component of most quality of life metrics.
6. Increased competition: The addition of a major asset like the $10 billion Inland Rail project will even the playing field between road and rail, the report argues. This will enhance the competition between the two modes in Australia, thus driving innovation and efficiency in each competing sector.
“The current rail infrastructure between Melbourne and Brisbane, particularly in and north of Sydney, is inadequate to support a stepchange in rail’s market share,” the report explains.
7. Improving transport networks: An estimated 160 additional round trips per week along the Inland Rail corridor for freight represents a 105% increase on current freight paths along the existing coastal route.
“Inland Rail will complement existing road and rail infrastructure, substantially enhancing Australia’s eastern infrastructure by creating a highly efficient, integrated network of road and rail,” the report says.
“It will offer redundancy for the east-coast rail network, and for rail freight, reduce the distance between Melbourne and Brisbane by around 200 kilometres, and between Brisbane and Perth by around 500 kilometres.”
Inland Rail would also remove the need to transit through Sydney, reducing pressure on Sydney’s metropolitan rail network and improving the performance of the Sydney–Newcastle rail corridor – a significant flow-on benefit across the wider transport network.