FRUSTRATED landholders appear no closer to knowing the route of the critical Queensland section of the inland rail, despite a decision from Canberra now being months overdue.
In question is the missing 198km link between Yelarbon (near the NSW/Queensland Border) and Gowrie. The decision on the B2G section is down to Infrastructure Minister Darren Chester, who, despite receiving a multitude of reports and briefings, is said to be still considering the economic, environmental and social impacts of the selected floodplain route.
Part of the reason for the ongoing delay is the pressure being applied from landholders across the Condamine floodplain who argue that the infrastructure would irreparably damage the agriculturally important region.
That contrasts with apparent pressure coming from government owned Australian Rail Track Corporation, which appears set on ensuring the inland rail is constructed on its original preferred route.
Also adding to the confusion is the tension being generated between the operators of the proposed intermodal hub at Gowrie Junction and the Wagner family’s Brisbane West Wellcamp Airport.
The Wagners have promised to stump up $60 million to build a freight hub beside Wellcamp. That created strong opposition from InterLinkSQ, which has already invested in land at Gowrie Junction.
Member for Maranoa, David Littleproud, said the delay had been caused in part because Wellcamp had not been constructed when the preferred route of the inland rail was determined in 2010.
“Without a review it was possible that the Wellcamp international airport would not have even been taken into consideration,” Mr Littleproud said.
“It is appropriate there is competitive tension to ensure we get the best outcome.
“We should be very mindful we are spending taxpayer dollars and have only one chance to get this right.”
Infracstucture Minister Darren Chester said he was carefully considering the Project Reference Group report, expert advice and direct feedback provided by local residents.
“It is important that I balance the social, economic, and environmental impacts, and benefits of each route,” Mr Chester said.
“This is a once-in-a-generation project that will transform freight movement and will create jobs during construction and into the future.”
The 1700km inland rail promises to link Melbourne with Brisbane with an effective, less than 24 hours freight service. The line will terminate at Acacia Ridge, about 35km shy of the Port of Brisbane.
- Federal Unfrastructure and Transport Minister Darren Chester is speaking at the Rural Press Club in Brisbane on September 21.