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THE $8.4 billion Budget allocation for a long-awaited Inland Rail link does not include the cost of connecting it to the Port of Brisbane.
Under the plan, double-decker loads of containers travelling at up to 110km/h from Melbourne to Queensland or hauling produce from country towns, would stop at Acacia Ridge.
Freight destined for the port would then need to be unloaded on to trucks and transported by road through the suburbs of Brisbane.
Containers also could be transferred on to shuttle trains, clogging the congested Beenleigh and Cleveland commuter lines, which are already near peak demand and with no relief in sight through the Cross River Rail project.
Any extension to the port will be expensive to build and require additional funding on top of the $8.4 billion but a dedicated port rail connection is a “high priority initiative” on Infrastructure Australia’s 2017 priority list.
Two plans exist for an Acacia Ridge-to-port connection: a link through the Karawatha Forest beside the Gateway Motorway, or a tunnel under Brisbane’s southern and eastern suburbs.
Port of Brisbane chief executive Roy Cummins welcomed the $8.4 billion investment in freight rail and regional jobs, but said no port connection was “a major missed opportunity for Queensland exporters and businesses”.
“The fact that Inland Rail stops at Acacia Ridge, and double-stacked trains will have to be unloaded there, means Brisbane residents could see millions more trucks driving through Brisbane suburbs,” Mr Cummins said.
“We will continue to advocate to all levels of Government how important it is for farmers and exporters, as well as the livability of Brisbane suburbs, to have a dedicated freight rail connection linking freight rail to the Port of Brisbane.”
Infrastructure Association of Queensland chief executive Steve Abson said it was a “glaring omission” that the Budget didn’t include money for a corridor study.
Infrastructure and Transport Minister Darren Chester said the existing urban rail link from Acacia Ridge to the Port would meet demand in the medium-term.
“Longer-term investment will be considered as freight demand increases,” Mr Chester said.
“We are working with the Queensland Government to examine the future requirements of a link to the port, especially in terms of Brisbane’s broader freight rail needs.”
This article first appeared on www.couriermail.com.au
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