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Inland rail a trifecta for Toowoomba region: mayor
THE logistics industry wants a new inland rail line to carry goods faster, a second Sydney airport, and a much toughened Infrastructure Australia, a federal government advisory body.
The demands are in an election priorities document developed by the industry body, the Australian Logistics Council.
An inland rail route for freight is listed as "key priority 1" in the document, The Australian Financial Review reports.
"Woolworths are now using a lot more rail out of Melbourne to Brisbane than they were even three years ago," said ALC chief executive Michael Kilgariff, who argued that food manufacturing businesses could be a major beneficiary – "fast-moving consumer goods, but also stuff that comes in through the port".
The existing rail route from Melbourne to Brisbane runs via Sydney and up the coast. It has been estimated an inland route would be 170 kilometres shorter and seven hours faster.
A 2010 study into the route found it was not yet viable, at an estimated cost of $4.7 billion, but suggested a follow-up study as soon as 2015.
"ALC believes the inland rail line needs to feature in the national conversation on rail investment, as the line would ultimately boost productivity and enhance efficiency on the north-south corridor," its document says.
The rail route is unrelated to proposed high-speed rail that in the very long term would link Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney, Newcastle and Brisbane at a cost of more than $100 billion.
In accordance with recommendations of the 2010 study, the federal government committed $300 million for planning and to preserve the preferred corridor, but has yet to commit to building the rail line.
Coalition transport spokesman Warren Truss has publicly committed the Coalition to the inland project.
A second Sydney airport is the second priority on the list. ALC predicts significant growth in high-value, time-sensitive air freight, and cites research that found freight capacity at the existing airport will be fully used by 2035.
ALC also wants the government's independent infrastructure adviser, Infrastructure Australia, to be tougher and more independent, like the Productivity Commission.
"What we would like with IA is we would like to see it more arm's length from government, the same way that the Productivity Commission is, and have it take on a much stronger role in terms of assessing government spending on infrastructure projects," Mr Kilgariff said.
"Like the PC they should be able to make a call, whether it is in agreement with the current government's priorities or not," he said.
"I suspect that some in the industry might not welcome that [needed] rigour being placed over projects, but it is very much part of our policy platform."
An Australian-based transport planning expert for international engineering and design consultancy Parsons Brinckerhoff, George Pund, also supported independence of IA, but cast doubt on the ability to depoliticise transport.
"You are not going to take the politics out of transport; it is too important," Mr Pund told a Melbourne transport planning forum this week.
ALC represents movers of goods such as Toll, Coles, Woolworths, Linfox, Aurizon, Asciano and the Australian Rail Track Corporation.
This article first appeared on www.theland.com.au
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