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Urban rail news in brief - July 2015
Inland rail a trifecta for Toowoomba region: mayor
The Federal Government will spend $594 million on researching and acquiring land for an inland rail network connecting Brisbane to Melbourne, and linking south-east Queensland with Perth and Adelaide.
But none of that money will go towards actually building or improving track, and that's likely to disappoint farm groups.
The Coalition has announced it will enlist the government-owned Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) to build the project but has confirmed it will also seek private investment.
The ARTC will use the money to buy land for the 1700 kilometre freight line, and to continue pre-construction works like environmental assessments.
"We know that an inland rail link will help to integrate domestic markets and bring global export markets closer to home," the Treasurer Scott Morrison said.
"This is particularly important to leverage the benefits of our export trade agreements for Australian agriculture."
There is no new money for roads in the federal budget however the Government has pledged to provide another $50 million for its popular Roads to Recovery programme in 2019/20.
Farmers have lobbied governments for decades to build the freight train line, which is expected to cost $10 billion. They say it will make it faster and cheaper to get produce to port, and enable them to compete with overseas countries.
Last week the National Farmers' Federation's chief executive Tony Mahar told ABC Rural the sector wanted to see "action" and "rail laid and turf turned".
Former Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson went further last month, arguing the Government needed to allocate at least $1 billion to building inland rail in the budget, or admit that it wanted to dump it altogether.
Mr Anderson, who authored a report for Government on the benefits of inland rail, said business groups didn't need "half-pregnant" ideas.
The cost of getting produce to ports via the current rail system can cost farmers hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.
The project, which the Nationals have long dreamed would revitalise country towns, would run through Moree, Narromine, Parkes, Wagga Wagga and Albury, ensuring freight trains do not have to travel through the congested Sydney rail network.
Plenty of support, limited actionThe former Gillard government pledged to build the inland rail and when the Coalition came to power, it promised to fast-track that project.
It went on to commit $300 million to 'pre-construction works' such as corridor planning, environmental assessments and community consultation, but no money was allocated to actually build the freight line.
Mr Anderson wrote a report for Government last year, which found that inland rail would create 16,000 jobs during the construction phase and a regular 600 jobs once operating.
In his report, Mr Anderson warned that eastern seaboard would become clogged up with heavy multi-carriage trucks if the network was not built.
It's estimated that one 3.6km interstate train could carry the equivalent of 110 B-double trucks and hoped the line could eventually "result in 15 fewer serious road crashes each year".
Some within the farm sector do not believe the inland rail would be completed if it depends entirely on Federal Government funds, and have encouraged the Coalition to look to the private sector for co-investment.
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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