THE Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) is eyeing a start date of 2020 for the tunnel through the Great Dividing Range which will be a crucial piece of infrastructure for the Inland Rail project.
Speaking at a presentation in Toowoomba yesterday, ARTC manager of the Gowrie to Helidon and Helidon to Calvert projects, Max Nichols, said the company would be preparing environmental impact statements (EIS) over the next 18 months.
In the lead-up to EIS terms of reference being drawn, ARTC is now inviting input in relation to a range of areas including indigenous significance, noise, flora and fauna, dust, and social impacts.
“These are our first cabs off the rank,” Mr Nichols said.
Approval from the Queensland Co-ordinator General and finally the Federal Government in light of the EISs will be required before the projects can proceed.
“Approvals for the tunnel are likely mid 1919, and a 2020 start is likely.”
The Inland Rail corridor has been divided into 13 projects which will link Melbourne and Brisbane, and has promised to create efficiencies and increase capacity for Australian bulk and containerised grain, pulse and oilseed exports.
Mr Nichols said plans for Inland Rail did not include passenger services.
“Its primary purpose is for double-stacked container freight; that might be a quarter to a third, and the rest would be (bulk) agricultural and coal.
“We are building for freight. We have allowed a corridor space beside it that you could build a passenger line on.”
The future of the existing West Moreton narrow-gauge line, which opened in 1867, is uncertain, as its major users like Aurizon and GrainCorp will become foundation customers of Inland Rail.
New trains and tunnels
- A loaded train currently takes about three hours and 40 minutes to travel from Gowrie to Calvert; Inland Rail is expected to reduce that time to less than two hours and 30 minutes because of the lesser gradient and more direct route which will could cut track distance by more than 20 per cent.
- Maximum train length being calculated is 1800m, and maximum height of loaded wagons would accommodate double-stacked containers.
- Maximum speeds for trains in outlying areas are 115kmh for axle loads of 23t, and 80kmh for axle loads of 25t or more. Tunnel speeds are yet to be determined.
- The 26km Gowrie to Helidon project will include a 6.4km tunnel through the Toowoomba Range, and the 47km Helidon to Calvert project will include a 1.1km tunnel through the Little Liverpool Range.
- The Toowoomba tunnel will run 100m below the Toowoomba Second Range Crossing roadway which is now under construction.
- Its eastern portal will be located north of the Harlaxton quarry on the eastern fall of the Toowoomba Range, and the western portal will be located near Boundary Street east of Gowrie.
- Around 50 trains per day are expected to use the Gowrie to Calvert line.
- The single-track dual-gauge line will have passing loops roughly every 50km in outlying areas, and 12km in closely settled or built-up areas.
According to the Inland Rail Business Case, regional agricultural freight forecast to be carried by the entire line when it opens in 2024-25 is forecast at 6.74Mt; this does not include intermodal or intercapital freight.
South-east Queensland coal for export through Brisbane is forecast to total 12.9Mt.
Public comments about the Gowrie to Helidon and Helidon to Calvert projects are due into the Queensland Coordinator General by 5 June, 2017.
The Gowrie to Helidon project will include frontage to InterLinkSQ intermodal hub near Gowrie.
Maps and further information about the Gowrie to Helidon and Helidon to Calvert projects are available online.
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