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Construction of the $10 billion inland rail line could be delayed because of the Queensland government’s reluctance to sign off on a crucial agreement.
Sources close to the landmark project say if the deal with the federal government is not signed within months, “it will start to impact on delivery timelines”.
The Palaszczuk Labor government has been reluctant to approve the agreement, citing a lack of willingness by the federally owned Australian Rail Track Corporation to address community concerns.
Lobby groups have ramped up the pressure on the Queensland government to sign the agreement, while community groups, particularly in rural areas, have continued to criticise the proposed route.
Inter-governmental agreements were signed in Victoria and NSW early last year, providing certainty for the delivery of the project and a commitment to negotiate a new long-term lease with the ARTC over the rail corridor.
Infrastructure Association of Queensland chief executive Steve Abson said the state was missing out on jobs while the government dithered about the project, which is estimated to boost gross state product by $7.3bn.
“That level of financial benefit is an outstanding return for the state, which invests next to nothing in the project and simply has to agree to co-ordinate planning functions with ARTC,” Mr Abson said.
Australian Railway Association chief executive Danny Broad urged the government to sign the agreement to “give the certainty required for this level of investment”.
Former state Nationals MP Ian Rickuss has slammed the project, describing its financing through public-private partnerships as “questionable” and its planning “poor”.
This article first appeared on www.theaustralian.com.au
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