THE Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) has signed of an agreement with a Brisbane-based joint venture for the Northern Civil Works Program as part of the Inland Rail build in Queensland.
The program includes more than 900 concrete culverts and at least 30 bridges spanning a total of more than 11 kilometres in the 162km section connecting Whetstone north-east of Goondiwindi with Gowrie on the western edge of Toowoomba.
The BHQ joint venture (BHQ JV) comprises Bielby Holdings, JF Hull Holdings and QH&M Birt, and has entered into a collaborative framework agreement with ARTC as the builders of the Melbourne-Brisbane Inland Rail project.
ARTC Inland Rail interim chief executive Rebecca Pickering said the announcement was the culmination of months of work by ARTC, and will ultimately support hundreds of jobs in Queensland.
“Inland Rail is a fast freight backbone that will transform how goods are moved around Australia – it’s also a catalyst for regional employment and economic opportunity,” Ms Pickering said.
“Queensland stands to benefit significantly from Inland Rail, with approximately two-thirds of the total project expenditure allocated for Queensland, and more than 11,800 jobs expected at the peak of construction in 2023-24.
“We’ve already committed contracts to over 630 businesses in Queensland worth over $1.5 billion, and this agreement will bring even more stimulus to the state as it recovers from the economic impacts of the pandemic.”
Ms Pickering said the appointment of a civil works proponent in parallel with environmental planning approvals will allow local businesses to hit the ground running when formal approval is given.
“Major construction will not start until statutory approvals have been received from the Queensland and Australian governments, but with the appointment of a preferred proponent now tells local businesses to get ‘Inland Rail ready’ and start talking with BHQ JV about what the future looks like.”
Ms Pickering said a large local workforce would be needed for this part of the Inland Rail project, with up to 950 workers needed at the peak of construction.
BHQ will initially be working with ARTC to review reference design and develop construction plans and methodologies ahead of the development of a fully costed proposal for the first of the works packages next year.
BHQ JV will now be seeking partnerships with businesses and skilled operators that can support project delivery such as transport operators, fencing, quarries, earthworks and electrical companies.
Work on the Inland Rail project is moving north, and sleeper replacement and other upgrades are occurring on the Narrabri-North Star section which stops just short of the NSW-Queensland border.
The proposed route of Inland Rail south of Millmerran has sparked serious concerns from local landholders including Millmerran Rail Group chairman Wes Judd.
He said neither the Queensland Government or the Australian Government have approved the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed route over the Condamine River floodplains, and the Independent Panel of Experts appointed by both governments
was still investigating ARTC’s flood modelling.
“Nothing is settled with this proposed route,” Mr Judd said.
“The ARTC can appoint designers and update websites all they like; with no EIS approval they can’t lay a sleeper.”
Mr Judd said advice the MRG had seen from the Coordinator-General’s office last week confirmed this.”
“As the Senate Committee who spent almost two years investigating Inland Rail and ARTC found, they have done a botched job with the project and engaging the local community.”
Mr Judd said the draft EIS for the route has been roundly criticised, from parties including the Toowoomba Regional Council, which stated: “It is recommended that the Draft EIS be rewritten to remove inconsistencies and confusion raised through missing, potentially misleading, or inaccurate information.”
The proposed path for Inland Rail across the Macintyre Valley has also sparked concern and, like the Condamine floodplain crossing, has been brought to the attention of a federal senate committee.
The path across the Macintyre is the 39km North Star-to-Border section, and the ARTC website states it is currently in the reference design stage.
“During this time, we are conducting various studies and consulting with landowners and other key stakeholders to better understand potential issues and opportunities around the Macintyre River crossing,” ARTC said.
Eyes on Gladstone
The Federal Government announced on Friday that it will provide up to $10 million to undertaking a business case into extending the Inland Rail line from Toowoomba to the Port of Gladstone.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Barnaby Joyce said extending Inland Rail from Toowoomba could deliver better rail connectivity to the Port of Gladstone and expand access to import and export markets for Australian businesses and industry.
“Extending the line to Gladstone would ensure the benefits of this nation-building piece of infrastructure are felt farther and wider, creating more jobs during construction, supporting existing jobs in the region, and better connecting our resources industries and agricultural producers to another major export gateway.
“The connection to Gladstone would be in addition to our existing commitment to take Inland Rail to Brisbane.”
Federal Member for Flynn Ken O’Dowd said enhancing Australia’s freight network is vital to improving productivity and supporting economic growth well into the future, which is why the Liberal and Nationals Government is exploring options to extend Inland Rail.
“Our Government has listened to calls to explore this extension to the Port of Gladstone and this business case demonstrates our commitment to delivering for our regions and for Queenslanders,” Mr O’Dowd said.
“Inland Rail is already creating jobs, transforming our regions and stimulating new revenue and growth opportunities for businesses in every state and territory across Australia.
“The Deputy Prime Minister and I have consistently advocated for the extension of Inland Rail to Gladstone and this business case ensures that the idea is thoroughly tested.
“Our commitment also aligns with opportunities identified by Infrastructure Australia’s Priority List for the Port of Gladstone Sea and Land Upgrade initiative.”
Source: ARTC, Millmerran Rail Group