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Precious freight could be transported to and from the Port of Brisbane via an underground tunnel stretching all the way to Ipswich under a visionary plan by former Thiess boss Martin Albrecht.
And the bid to solve the $14.5 billion Inland Rail missing link could be completed in time for the 2032 Olympics in Brisbane.
Mr Albrecht and the National Trunk Rail consortium, of which he is the chairman, has previously pitched a 16km underground rail tunnel to connect Inland Rail to the Port of Brisbane via two tunnels separated by Pine Mountain Quarry.
But NTR’s latest pitch, outlined in an opinion piece written by Mr Albrecht for The Sunday Mail, goes much further.
The plan is to build a 52km underground tunnel system starting at a point west of Ipswich – coupled with an intermodal freight hub – all the way to the Port of Brisbane.
The trains would be driverless, autonomous and fully battery-powered, meaning they would generate no carbon emissions.
The project by PortConnex, a wholly owned subsidiary of NTR, could be built in five years according to Mr Albrecht, with tunnel drillers to be launched from five points concurrently.
Former Thiess boss Martin Albrecht
“Targeted to complement Inland Rail’s freight movements from Melbourne to Brisbane, PortConnex provides the final missing link to the Port of Brisbane, offering transport of double-stacked containers, agricultural, resource and livestock freight delivery, within 60 minutes,” he said.
“This represents another important step to ensure a 24-hour turnaround from Melbourne to the Port of Brisbane.
“The time to export commodities to and from the Port of Brisbane to Asian markets is six days shorter than from the Port of Melbourne.”
He has requested the cost of the project and the specific start site for the tunnel remain private before he is able to sit down with the Deputy Prime Minister and Infrastructure Minister Barnaby Joyce, as well as with state authorities.
The pitch comes at a time when the end destination of Inland Rail – or how it will get from Gowrie, west of Toowoomba, to Brisbane – are not yet locked in.
The Federal Government’s investment of up to $14.5 billion will upgrade 1100km of track along the existing rail route and it will construct 600km of brand new track through fresh fields – filling in the missing links in the existing rail networks between Brisbane and Melbourne.
Member for Bonner Ross Vasta
But a recent Senate inquiry into the multibillion-dollar project slammed the lack of an end point in Brisbane as “unacceptable”.
Mr Albrecht said the project was more important than ever if Queensland wants to announce itself to the world as a state of technological and innovation prowess.
“Only through adoption of an innovative and inspired response can the state deliver a prosperous, liveable and sustainable future for generations to come, ensuring the once-in-a-century opportunity to host the 2032 regional Olympics can be realised,” he said.
“The focus in 2032 will be on technological innovation and best practice, rather than congestion and poor planning,” he added.
The 52km tunnel proposed by PortConnex would eliminate over 323,000 truck movements and thus reduce congestion and freight and passenger rail conflicts.
Federal Member for Bonner Ross Vasta, a supporter of the plan, said he had met with officials in charge of the Inland Rail project within the Prime Minister’s Office when he was recently in Canberra.
He said making sure the Inland Rail connected to the Port of Brisbane was vital to secure the future prosperity of Queensland.
This article first appeared on www.couriermail.com.au
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