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Supporters of the project say the new line will run across the top of the country to service remote communities and connect major ports.
This summer saw deadly floods cut off communities along major supply chains that connect South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.
Grocery stores were left empty as trucks and trains carrying supplies from South Australia to the Northern Territory were stranded by flood-ravaged roads.
One of the communities hardest hit was Katherine, where locals took desperate measures to unload a single truck that became bogged trying to transport much-needed supplies to the region.
For the past month, trucks have picked up the slack, forced to carry the burden or risk further food shortages in the region.
Supermarket shelves were empty in communities cut-off after freight routes were flooded.(ABC News: Matt Garrick)Worse, the main highway between Adelaide and Darwin is still partially closed, forcing road users to detour through Queensland.
Communities at risk of further isolation demand help
A tractor pulls a bogged truck carrying supplies to a remote community.(Supplied)Katherine's Chamber of Commerce manager, Colin Abbott, said the flooding exposed how vulnerable supply chains were in outback Australia.
"It seems to be a significant issue that if one railway or road is flooded, the whole Territory is basically isolated," he said.
"How can we continue to grow if this keeps happening?"
A photo from above showing a line of trucks waiting for floodwaters to recede on the Stuart Highway.(Supplied)Community leaders across the north are calling for a near 3,000 kilometres rail line that would run from Townsville in north Queensland to Wyndham in WA.
It would provide a freight route servicing rural communities and connecting eastern and western ports.
Currently, the northern inland rail line stops at Mount Isa.
Australia's key freight rail routes currently used to haul goods across the country.(Supplied)
A map detailing the existing (blue) and proposed (red) rail link running through QLD, NT and WA.(Supplied)The idea has the backing of Queensland LNP Senator Susan McDonald, who is the chair of the Rural and Regional Affairs and the Transport Legislation Committee.
"Recent flooding has highlighted the need for greater connectivity across the nation, not only for food and supplies during times of supply chain challenges, but also to build northern Australia," Senator McDonald said.
"It has long been a dream to build an east-west connection.
"Other nations have built internal populations and industry based on connecting the country internally, and I believe this has long been a missing part of northern Australia's development."
A lifetime of work, still no progressThis is not the first attempt to get the project back on track.
Long-time campaigner and founder of the inland rail project, Everald Compton, has spent more than a quarter of a century trying to get the idea off the ground.
"It wouldn't just be carrying supplies to residents, it would be carrying national freight right across the top of the inland, and that'd be a great opportunity for industries," Mr Compton said.
Everald Compton has long been a supporter of the project.(Supplied)The project garnered support from political leaders in the past, including the Howard government in 1996.
Previous feasibility studies ruled out the rail line for being too costly and difficult to build.
But Senator McDonald said times had changed.
"I believe the renewed focus on northern Australia by defence, mining and ag industries, and investors, makes the development of this project more realistic within the next few years," she said.
Private developers may push track aheadSenator McDonald called on private developers to get involved.
Senator Susan McDonald says recent flooding has highlighted the need for greater connectivity.(ABC News: Chloe Chomicki)"All successful infrastructure projects commence with a private proponent who will coordinate the business requirements and feasibility, and most importantly, be an advocate at all levels of government," she said.
"I'm keen to support such a developer to request government involvement by way of an updated business case study and early-stage alignments."
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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