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Urban rail news in brief - July 2015
Inland rail a trifecta for Toowoomba region: mayor
A proposed inland rail line from Melbourne to Brisbane should be extended to Gladstone to prevent another infrastructure bottleneck developing, freight and resource experts have warned.
ndustry leaders believe the improving viability of massive resource reserves throughout the Surat coal basin means linking it to Gladstone could be essential.
Federal Transport Minister John Anderson yesterday announced a full feasibility study into east coast rail which would consider an inland Melbourne to Brisbane route.
The study will consider whether the inland line, estimated to cost between $3 billion and $4 billion, can resolve major inefficiencies on the coastal route which carries less than 20 per cent of the freight between Brisbane and Melbourne.
Australian Transport and Energy Corridor chairman Everald Compton, who is behind the inland push, revealed a proposal was before the State Government for the "missing link" to Gladstone.
Mr Compton said the $750 million joint-funding proposal involved upgrading the current line from Toowoomba to the coal basin with a new 220km line east to Gladstone.
"The Surat coal basin is just about all untapped and you have got to wonder why this hasn't been built 100 years ago," he said.
Mr Compton said there were several mines that currently couldn't open because of the lack of a link to Gladstone.
More than three billion tonnes of thermal coal deposits are estimated to be within the massive basin with small operations in the area mining just for domestic electricity generation.
The State Government has been heavily criticised over coal infrastructure bottlenecks and last week announced a $25 million feasibility study into tripling capacity at Abbott Point Coal Terminal and linking it to Dalrymple Bay with a new rail line.
Queensland Resources Council chief executive Susan Johnston said the history of low prices and lack of transport had meant the Surat basin was unviable but that was changing.
"You look now in a changed environment with that strong demand from China expected to come over the next 10 years and in that context you have to take a serious look at it," she said.
Ms Johnston said it was unrealistic to consider running major coal trains through the suburbs to the Port of Brisbane which had limited capacity compared with Gladstone.
Mr Anderson said the Melbourne-to-Brisbane leg would make "serious economic sense" in five years and would ease pressure on the roads.
Pacific National chief executive Stephen O'Donnell said the line could be built in five years and cut costs for long-haul freight by 30 per cent.
"When you look at the map, you look at the freight opportunity, you look at the current method of getting freight between Melbourne and Brisbane, you really reach a conclusion that if there is ever a time to do this, this is now about the right time to start considering it seriously," Mr O'Donnell said.
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