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Construction of the $10 billion Melbourne-to-Brisbane rail line has started, but after 10 years and millions of dollars already spent, debate is still raging about where it should go.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack has ordered a review of the so-called forestry route, due to long-standing concerns about crossing the Condamine floodplain at Millmerran.
Cecil Plains farmer John 'Cowboy' Cameron said the largely flat area was unsuitable for the project, which was due to be completed in five years.
"This proposed route crosses directly across the middle of the inner Darling Downs overland flow floodplain," he said.
"So for 100 years man has been trying to cross this floodplain and interfere with it, and for 100 years he's failed."
Locals say the area south of Cecil Plains is unsuitable for a rail line because of overland flow.(Supplied: Meg Kummerow)What you need to know about inland rail[img]https://www.abc.net.au/cm/lb/9245622/data/a-freight-train-waiting-to-leave-melbourne-data.jpg[/img]
Proponents say Australia is in desperate need of an inland railway to ease the number of trucks on our roads and create a more efficient freight system for the next 100 years.
Mr Cameron said the natural flow of overland drainage water was southeast to northwest, which would hit 30 kilometres of the proposed rail corridor at a 45-degree angle.
"Because we don't have highs and lows on the plain, where that water hits the proposed railway line will vary with every rainfall event," he said.
Not in my backyardMr Cameron said crossing the Condamine floodplain could be avoided by designing a purpose-built rail corridor from Toowoomba to Brisbane, separate from the inland rail route.
"I'm like every other member of society, I'm a NIMBY," he said.
"I don't necessarily want a train 50 metres from my house, but to me that's not the issue.
"Perhaps we should redefine the [project] as Brisbane-to-Melbourne, and stop being fixated by the obsession that it must be Brisbane, Toowoomba to Melbourne."
Affected residents have argued the 'forestry route' is misleading.(ABC Southern Qld: Elly Bradfield)
Meg Kummerow said she other locals learned of the review from a press release.
She said there had been no consultation from the government or Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC).
"So if their issue is the crossing of a floodplain, then moving it downstream isn't addressing that issue, it's just compounding it," Ms Kummerow said.
She said the area is the only habitat for the Condamine, or grassland, earless dragon.
"It's listed as endangered, so protecting [its] habitat is very, very important," Ms Kummerow said.
The Condamine floodplain is the only habitat for the Condamine, or grassland, earless dragon.(Supplied: Steve Wilson)Review neededDeputy Nationals Leader and local member David Littleproud said he pushed for the review because of residents' "untested and answered" concerns.
"I've got to be able to look people in the eye and say we are going to impinge on your rights, but I have to do that on the premise of having the best science and I don't have the best science because ARTC have been derelict in their duties in obtaining that," he said.
The inland rail line will be built across the Condamine floodplain in southern Queensland, despite farmers' warnings that it could put lives at risk.
"I've asked the Deputy Prime Minister to make sure that it's independent and transparent so that there is confidence.
"They [ARTC] can't get an engineering solution because they haven't go the hydrology right to start with.
"If you're worried about inland rail getting deferred and getting held up it's going to be because ARTC hasn't done their job, not because farmers are asking for due process."
Further south, Goondiwindi Mayor Lawrence Springborg has also called for a review of the modelling and said locals there still had unresolved concerns about the flooding impact.
He said it could be "diabolical" for the town of Goondiwindi and nearby landowners.
Locals say the disused rail line is affected by flooding in every major rain event.(ABC Southern Qld: Elly Bradfield)'I beg to differ with Mr Littleproud'Water Engineer John Macintosh said he had independently reviewed the modelling and it stacked up.
"The Condamine River, it's a very big river ... very wide but it's not a difficult one," he said.
"I think this is an example of best practise engineering that has been applied here.
"I was given full access to their people, their information and so forth and I've independently reviewed it and I'm very satisfied that it's fit for purpose."
The Norwin Rail line was flooded in 2010 and locals said it was an unsuitable place to build new infrastructure.(Supplied: Meg Kummerow)Tension on the track[img]https://www.abc.net.au/cm/lb/9237160/data/custom-image-size-of-rail-line-cutting-through-green-fields-data.jpg[/img]
The Melbourne-to-Brisbane inland rail line is touted as a nation-building infrastructure project that will bring huge benefits to the bush. But the $10 billion venture won't save all the dying, tiny towns along its route.
Mr Macintosh said the project could face "massive delays" while another route was investigated.
"It's basically repeating the same exercise ... with exactly the same techniques applied to the new location," he said.
The Australian Rail Track Corporation has confirmed the Deputy Prime Minister has asked it to review the forestry route via Cecil Plains against the current Border-to-Gowrie project route to assess its ability to meet the business case requirements.
"As previously stated, we have the utmost confidence in our flood modelling on the B2G section of inland rail," an ARTC spokesperson said.
Millmerran locals have long-standing concerns about the rail line crossing the Condamine floodplain in southern Queensland.(ABC Southern Qld: Elly Bradfield)
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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