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Fast-tracking the $9.3 billion Inland Rail project in Queensland could worsen flood risks in the Lockyer Valley near flood-devastated Grantham, according to the local council.
Earlier this week, the federal government announced it would streamline approval processes for 15 infrastructure projects, including the long-planned Inland Rail project from Melbourne to Brisbane, to boost jobs after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Grantham's rail bridge which dammed flood waters. Plans for an Inland Rail through the region have made some residents nervous.CREDITEAN SAFFRON.
The project is being co-ordinated by the Australian Rail Track Corporation.
Queensland's Co-ordinator General is reviewing the impacts of the five Queensland sections of the proposed route, while Scenic Rim, Logan and Lockyer Valley council submissions to a Senate Inquiry into the project highlight many problems previously not made public.
There is broad community concerns in all five Queensland sections from the border to Acacia Ridge, including three new billion-dollar tunnels.
These include a 1.1-kilometre tunnel to be dug in part of the flood-prone, Lockyer Valley north of Grantham, a second 1.1-kilometre tunnel through the Teviot Range near Flinders Peak, and a 6.4-kilometre tunnel from Gowrie, near Toowoomba toward Helidon.
Queensland's Environment Department is now examining the proposed rail route in detail after learning the route is close to Queensland new Koala Priority Areas between Grandchester and Willowbank, which prevent land clearing.
Lockyer Valley Regional Council told a 2020 Senate Inquiry it had doubts about the project's flood modelling and the project benefits.
“Following the catastrophic floods of 2011 and 2013, and two Commissions of Inquiry, communities in the Lockyer Valley remain extremely sensitive to the contribution railways may have to the impacts of flood events,” the regional council says.
“This issue has been raised consistently throughout the design process to date. It remains of fundamental importance to the region."
The council also asked why Queensland Rail had such a small role in the planning.
“Clearly this is unsatisfactory when the intention for much of the alignment is to share corridor with that railway manager," their submission reads.
The1800-kilometre Inland Rail link proposes to get freight by inland rail between Melbourne and Brisbane within 24 hours, and to reduce national freight costs by $10 a tonne.
It estimates it will create 16,000 jobs and inject more than $16 billion into the Australian economy.
At Millmerran, south-west of Toowoomba, some farmers argue the route through black soil flood plains from the Condamine River is simply wrong, and new modeling was ordered this month by federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud.
A spokeswoman for Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said the project would begin to involve more Queensland government input.
“There will be no relaxation of any environmental safeguards under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act nor the requirements to consult with the community," she said.
“The Commonwealth will work closely with its state counterparts and the proponents of the projects establishing joint teams to ensure processes are fast-tracked.
"Further, the community will have a further opportunity to comment on Inland Rail through the environmental assessment processes.”
The five Queensland sections each have a local co-ordination committee overseeing issues in their area.
This article first appeared on www.brisbanetimes.com.au
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