Inland rail the best investment to fast-track our freight-moving needs

Opinion Piece


11 September 2015

The Australian Newspaper

The case for the iconic Inland Rail project is not hard to make.

It is transformational, boosting productivity for generations to come, opening up and connecting regional areas of south east Queensland, NSW and Victoria like never before and breathing new life into our economy through a high performance rail line.

The freight corridor from Melbourne to Brisbane is vitally important to the national economy. It already generates 75 percent of Australia's GDP and is responsible for commodity exports of more than $260 billion each year.

The freight task along this corridor will treble over the next two decades.

The Australian Logistics Council says for every 1% increase in efficiency in logistics, GDP is boosted by $2 billion. Just one interstate train on the Inland Railway will take 110 B-Double trucks off our roads.

South east Queensland will connect directly by rail to Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth avoiding the need for freight to transit through the congested Sydney network. Inland Rail will reduce the distance between Melbourne and Brisbane by 200 km and carve 500 km from the Brisbane to Perth trip.

Inland Rail will complement existing road and rail networks and dramatically boost productivity. Initially, it will provide for 1,800 metre long trains carrying containers stacked two high, and, in the longer term, much heavier 3,600 metre long trains.

The new freight line will reduce transit time between Melbourne and Brisbane by more than 10 hours—reducing the journey to less than a day. It will remove 200,000 trucks, or 5.4 billion net tonne kilometres of freight, from roads each year and add $22.5 billion to the Australian economy.

The project will create up to 16,000 direct jobs during a 10-year construction period and a regular 600 jobs once operational.

It will also create new opportunities for the procurement of goods and services, new activities in the farming and mining sectors, new regional businesses and complementary investment from local and regional transport operators.

Australia's east coast population is forecast to increase by 60 per cent over the next 40 years. This growth will drive greater private, commercial and freight demand for road capacity and maintain pressure on governments to relieve bottlenecks as they continue to arise.

Without Inland Rail, additional heavy vehicles will be needed to move over two million tonnes of extra freight between Melbourne and Brisbane in 2050.

That is equivalent to 200 B-Double truck trips per day along the full length of the corridor and would require the introduction of high productivity heavy vehicles such as B-Triple trucks on the Hume, Pacific and Newell Highways.

Inland Rail will cost around $10 billion, but not building it will cost us more.

The Australian Government knows there is a strong need for us to lead the investment charge. For this reason it is important that there is a robust business case for the project and I have referred the full costs and benefits to Infrastructure Australia for analysis.

Warren Truss is Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development.