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Just as the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) calls for expressions of interest (EOI) related to the Victorian section of Inland Rail are made, controversy re-emerges over the northern end and sees the Queensland route being reviewed.
The development has spurred a concerned response from the Australian Logistics Council (ALC) on an issue that pits it, the ARTC and other proponents against the likes of federal agriculture minister David Littleproud, farming and environmental interests, and local government.
It centres on the Border-to-Gowrie route through the Condamine floodplain, which has already been reviewed, though local consultation over which was mired in controversy and declared a sham by some locals.
Now, Federal infrastructure minister Michael McCormack has sought a new look at the so-called ‘forestry route’ through Cecil Plains
Littleproud tells ABC News he lobbied McCormack for a review and accuses the ARTC of failing to get the hydrology right.
The ARTC is standing its ground on the research already conducted.
The alignment is to take in the Charlton-Wellcamp industrial precinct and Wellcamp Airport.
"The government has chosen this route because, as much as possible, it uses existing rail corridors, it goes past Wellcamp Airport, which didn’t exist in 2010 when the original route was considered, and it is significantly more economically viable option than the alternative routes," then-federal infrastructure minister Darren Chester said in 2017.
"I understand that people have concerns about the impacts of the rail line on the floodplain, and I am confident that by using the best engineering minds in Australia we will ensure that the effects are minimised."
ALC says 11th-hour attempts to alter the approved route of the Inland Rail project are causing uncertainty for investors and local communities, placing a brake on employment growth and regional development opportunities at a time the economy can least afford it.
"Governments around Australia are united in their view that large-scale infrastructure projects will be vital in supporting our post-Covid economic recovery," according to ALC CEO Kirk Coningham.
"Inland Rail is one of the most iconic freight infrastructure projects ever undertaken and will play a significant role in modernising our supply chains.
"It will allow a transit time of 24 hours or less for freight trains between Melbourne and Brisbane via regional Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland."
"Yet, with construction on the project already underway, some groups are now attempting to have changes on the Border to Gowrie section of the route. Despite the fact that extensive and independent analysis of corridor options has previously confirmed the route chosen in 2017 is the best option, there is now a further review taking place."
"The whole point of constructing Inland Rail is to provide a safe and efficient freight rail link for Australia’s east coast that permits a transit time of 24 hours or less for freight between Melbourne and Brisbane. Altering the route to the more complex one being advocated by some will make travel times longer and will make construction a more complicated and costly exercise."
The ALC wants all parties to respect the findings of this latest review once it is concluded, so that certainty is maintained.
Meanwhile, the southern EOI aims to engage two companies to complete the early phase of design and construction work in a procurement process known as Early Contractor Involvement.
ARTC general manager projects Victoria Ed Walker says the Tottenham to Albury project involves designing and rebuilding bridges, associated civil works and track lowering at 12 sites, as well as the delivery of overhead wiring, signal gantry installations and track slews along the existing North East rail line from Beveridge to Albury.
"We’re asking contractors to express their interest in the works, especially those with experience delivering a program of complex road and rail infrastructure in regional locations, with a value in excess of $200 million," Walker says.
This article first appeared on www.fullyloaded.com.au
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