The Courier-Mail

Inland rail on track to success

- GLEN NORRIS

A PLANNED $12 billion railway linking the Port of Brisbane with Melbourne has been boosted by the Federal Government saying it was examining options for an inland rail line.

Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said the Government was considerin­g options to ensure the railway was built in the most efficient and cost-effective way.

Two groups are vying to build the project, the government-owned Australian Rail Track Corporatio­n (ARTC) and a private sector group, National Trunk Rail (NTR).

NTR chairman Martin Albrecht said this was the first time the Government had acknowledg­ed there were options besides the ARTC proposal, which used mostly existing tracks through Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.

NTR is developing a proposal that involves new track, complete with a tunnel link to the Port of Brisbane. NTR’s route is 1595km long, about 135km shorter than ARTC.

Mr Albrecht said the private sector would be best placed to fund the project, with the Federal Government committing $300 million for preliminar­y work.

“Our proposal is shorter, flatter, straighter and faster,” said Mr Albrecht, the former Thiess chief executive, who has enlisted former Queensland Rail chief executive Vince O’Rourke and former Queensland Investment Corp boss Doug McTaggart to lobby for the project.

Mr Albrecht, an engineer who worked on the Snowy Mountains Scheme as a young man, said the inland rail project would be the nation’s biggest infrastruc­ture project.

He said with east coast freight expected to double by 2030 and treble by 2050 a railway was necessary to reduce the burden on road transport.

“About 1800 B-doubles (large semi-trailers) now travel up the Hume Highway every day,” Mr Albrecht said. “The time for a high-speed, fully integrated inland rail freight line is now, especially with new export opportunit­ies flowing from free trade agreements with Asia.”

A spokesman for Mr Truss said the NTR proposal had already been referred to Infrastruc­ture Australia. “We expect the Government will be in a position to announce the way forward for the inland rail project early in the new year,” the spokesman said.

The NTR travels a more inland route than its ARTC rival, travelling through Shepparton in Victoria, and Narrandera in NSW, rather than through Albury and Wagga Wagga. ARTC’s proposal also ends at Acacia Ridge, rather than the Port of Brisbane.

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