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The Australian Logistics Council has urged Labor to ensure a planned inquiry into route selection and financing arrangements does not delay construction of the Inland Rail project.
Labor infrastructure spokesperson Anthony Albanese on April 23 formally announced that Labor – if sworn into Government following the May 18 election – would order an independent inquiry into the Inland Rail project, which is being delivered by the Australian Rail Track Corporation.
Albanese has long been critical of the financing arrangements for Inland Rail, whereby the Coalition committed a $9.5 billion equity injection into the ARTC to fund the build.
While the equity model means the bill for Inland Rail can be kept off the Budget’s balance sheet, it also means it is expected to make a return for the Federal Government. Albanese has pointed out that by using the ARTC as a conduit for this delivery, the Coalition can effectively leverage the ARTC’s full balance sheet in demonstrating that future return.
Albanese has also partnered with farmers along the planned route, who have criticised certain aspects of the route selection process, and the decisions subsequently made.
The Queensland Government has so far yet to sign the inter-governmental deal to facilitate the delivery of Inland Rail, reportedly due to anger from farmers impacted by the route in the state’s south east.
But whatever the results of the potential inquiry, ALC chief executive officer Kirk Coningham says any delays to construction of Inland Rail will be felt by freight logistics operators and local communities already making preparations for the project.
“The conduct of any proposed inquiry must not be allowed to slow the pace of construction on Inland Rail, which is already underway,” Coningham said.
This article first appeared on www.railexpress.com.au
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