WORK has commenced on Inland Rail’s Narrabri-North Star section, the last before it crosses the New South Wales border into Queensland, where concerns about its route still exist.
The Narrabri-Turrawan line is being upgraded as part of Inland Rail’s Narrabri-North Star section.
It will connect the Hunter rail line, which carries bulk and containerised commodities including grain, pulses and cotton to Newcastle.
The upgrade will see the Moree-Narrabri North line replaced in two sections over this and next winter while new sleepers and rail are laid to bring the line up to Inland Rail standards.
Member for Parkes Mark Coulton and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack were in Narrabri last week, and spoke about the northernmost NSW section.
“It’s the missing link – the 30-odd kilometres of missing link – so that we can increase the axle weight and the length of the trains coming from the north west, or indeed the central west, through to the Port of Newcastle,” Mr Coulton said.
“This is, of course, one of the big producing areas,” Mr McCormack said, and added that the 1700-kilometre Inland Rail route joining Melbourne and Brisbane would “connect Narrabri with the world like never before”.
Brisbane is currently considered the natural terminal port for Narrabri and points north, and Inland Rail will offer an alternative to road transport for northbound agricultural commodities.
Questions over Condamine
Inland Rail’s proposed route north of North Star, which is roughly 30km south of the Queensland border, is of concern to farmers and other landholders who belong to the Millmerran Rail Group (MRG).
It has lobbied the Federal Government to change the proposed route in the Border-Gowrie section, which will bring the line over the Condamine River floodplain to the outskirts of Toowoomba.
In a statement released last week, MRG chairman Wes Judd said he had spoken with Mr McCormack, after the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) last month submitted its draft Environmental Impact Statement for Inland Rail’s Border-Gowrie section .
“The Deputy Prime Minister is aware of the very serious concerns held by farming families on the Darling Downs about the ARTC’s proposed route,” Mr Judd said.
“We have raised the many flaws, particularly around the flood modelling, with the Deputy Prime Minister.
“These issues were referred to an Independent International Panel of Experts that the Deputy Prime Minister set up.
“The panel is still to report on the flood studies ARTC is relying on for this flawed route.
“Our local Federal Member David Littleproud knows this route is the wrong route.”
Call for further information
Mr Judd said he had urged Mr McCormack to instruct ARTC to not proceed with the route until:
- The independent panel of experts has reported publicly on the flood modelling and hydrology of the proposed routes;
- The Senate Inquiry has been completed and tabled its findings and recommendations;
- An independent assessment of alternative routes west of Millmerran are updated to include any additional costs for the ARTC’s preferred route;
- All affected landholders have been consulted and have agreed to the ARTC’s proposals and compensation offer if they and their businesses remain affected.
Mr Judd said the Queensland Government has already said it would not approve land resumptions until it was satisfied that genuine consultation with potentially affected landholders has taken place.
The Senate Inquiry into Management of the Inland Rail project by ARTC and the Federal Government was initially to report its findings by 30 September 2020, which was extended to 11 November, and has since been further extended to 11 February.
Following the last public hearing in Brisbane on Wednesday, submissions to the inquiry are now closed.
The draft EIS had been released for public comment over a 12-weeks period, and Inland Rail is this month hosting information sessions about it at eight locations along the Border-Gowrie section.