ASPIRE CQ: Please explain to CQ why no inland rail link
WHAT DO you do when you present a logical case to government that would save them (us) billions of dollars and they produce a feasibility report that says your argument is flawed, not economically viable - do you just forget about it?
That appears to be the case with the advocated inland rail link to Gladstone.
The initial local excitement for this significant project that would have linked Melbourne to Gladstone with a travel time of just over 24 hours seems to be crushed by the release of the feasibility report.
No-one now appears to be championing the project identified by 11 Central Queensland councils as one required to underpin CQ's growth. Or is that local media are no longer interested or have the space to keep pushing a project deemed not economically viable?
Is Central Queensland suffering economically because of the cuts made to the resourcing of local media organisations?
Who is now championing CQ, its future growth and projects? If there are champions out there where are the stories in the media needed for the public to be more aware and politically interested about them?
We are less than 100 days from a state election and hardly a word about the inland rail link to Gladstone. Not a vote catcher, why?
Is it because of the feasibility study conclusion, perhaps being federal government money, it's not considered a state issue or is it the media don't have the resources to challenge the findings of the study and put it out in the public arena?
Let's apply some layman logic to this project.
The inland rail link between Toowoomba and Brisbane is likely to cost in excess $6 billion, if you do a cost comparison with what it involves and what the smaller Cross River Rail project is costing.
Toowoomba to Gladstone rail connection estimated to be about $1.5 billion ($3B if dual gauge option was selected).
That's our money we are saving.
The Port of Brisbane is privately leased (99 years) by a conglomerate that includes foreign owned companies.
Gladstone Port is publicly owned. More profits retained in Australia.
The link from Acacia Ridge to the Port of Brisbane will use existing commuter lines for the up to 1.8km long trains (that could carry coal), thus causing longer delays for motorists at Brisbane suburb rail crossings multiple times a day, along with the 'shake' of the buildings on either side of the tracks.
Gladstone offers a far more public friendly route straight to Port, without the need to unstack the double stacked carriages.
Also, Gladstone is closer to Asia than Brisbane. If speed is important in getting international freight in and out surely this indisputable geographic fact is hard to ignore.
It is also likely Gladstone would be cheaper than Brisbane or Melbourne in the receiving and distribution of freight.
Central Queensland and Surat Basin, possibly even the southern part of the Galilee Basin, produce could be more efficiently transported to either Gladstone for shipping or Toowoomba for international air cargo.
Whereas this resource rich region is not connected to the inland rail if it stops at Brisbane. Gladstone demonstrates a broader national vision for the project and a government commitment to developing regional Australia.
Can the counter argument, dismissing Gladstone, with estimates that about 70 per cent of the inland rail freight is destined for domestic markets, making the capital (more populated) cities the logical bookends for the track be responded with the following scenario:
>> Toowoomba becomes Queensland's major freight terminal.
>> Domestic freight that was destined for Acacia Ridge is dropped off instead at Toowoomba (along with air freight) then trucked to the applicable locations.
>> Cuts the extra amount of trucks that an already congested Acacia Ridge will have to put up with, along with the estimated 45 extra trains a day that will eventually use the heavily populated Acacia Ridge to Port of Brisbane link.
>> International shipping freight collected along the inland route remains double stacked and continues on to Gladstone.
>> Gladstone becomes Australia's main eastern port, which saves about 3 days for goods to be transported by rail to Melbourne than shipped.
No doubt the experts who prepared the study will find fault with this layman's logic; they would have to in justifying their conclusion and fee, but have they even had to bother.
Where is continued argument for the logic of the Gladstone link?
Once you could expect the media to demand a please explain. But even our red hair senator, who relies on regional support, doesn't appear to be seeking an explanation either.
Where has CQ been let down? Forget it, the proverbial train has already left the station, they're not going to change it, is that the way we now think?
Look at Toowoomba, not included in the first proposed route for the inland rail but persistently presenting layman's logic to divert to a less congested regional airport with international cargo facilities won them the day, the train will be stopping and leaving there.
Yes, CQ has got a number of major projects in the pipeline, but that should not stop us championing for more, especially when the layman's logic test is applied.
The diminished resourcing of the local media now makes it even more important that CQ has one united, clear, strong voice to champion its future growth.
And in my opinion that voice needs to come from an organisation that represents at least all the 12 councils that make up the core of Central Queensland (from the reef to the Northern Territory border), not just parts of it.
The whole can be and needs to be greater than the sum of its parts or we risk CQ remaining somewhat of a gap in Queensland's developed map.