Inland rail to Gladstone could save $1.6 billon
Extending the inland rail line to Gladstone could save the Federal Government $1.6 billion plus prevent Brisbane rail and port congestion.
This and other potential financial and transport benefits were highlighted in a submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport, by Regional Development Australia Central and Western Queensland RDACWQ Deputy Chair John Abbott.
The submission was made on behalf of the Central Queensland Region Organisation of Councils, RDACWQ and Gladstone Ports Corporation.
The extension of the current inland rail plan, dubbed the T2G (Toowoomba to Gladstone), would see four sections of track, on which the ATEC Rail Group have spent more than $70 million to have a “shovel ready” project, that would have trains travel via the “gas rich” Surat Basin.
Trains would travel first to Miles, on an existing Aurizon operating line, then to Wandoan.
New tracks are required between Miles and Wandoan, then Wandoan to Banana, which are designed, have environmental approval, in a State Development area with a current Development Act.
From Banana to Gladstone existing track would be used.
The ATEC economic analysis shows the initial narrow gauge option (two new sections dual gauge ready) for the inland rail extension to Gladstone costing $1.4 billion, compared to $3 billion for the entire track to Gladstone incorporating dual gauge railway.
To accommodate freight movement on dual gauge railway, variable gauge rolling stock, which is widely used in Europe, is recommended to reduce capital expenditure.
If the extension of the Inland Rail is secured, the submission states it paves the way for Gladstone to become the fourth major container port on Australia’s East Coast.
In the submission, Mr Abbott argues there are four compelling reasons to reconfigure the current inland rail design.
1). Australia needs a fourth major container port on the East Coast, and that should be the Port of Gladstone.
Existing major container ports of Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne are land locked, making future expansion options both limited and expensive.
2). The financial case for the Inland Rail to the Port of Brisbane is based on growth of Coal exports growing to 19.5 Million tpa. Both existing and future export growth of coal can be exported from Gladstone.
The Port of Brisbane can only accommodate 10 million tpa of coal and requires significant investment to expand capacity, whereas Gladstone has the capacity to handle an extra 20 million tpa of coal exports.
The increase of coal through the port would require six to seven extra coal trains per day through urban Brisbane, while six to eight million tpa of additional coal through Gladstone would provide the initial revenue for the T2G inland rail link.
3). The financial case for the Toowoomba to Gladstone rail are superior to that of Toowoomba to Brisbane.
Quicker routes to market for container and agricultural freight via Gladstone, instead of currently sending it to Brisbane.
The Gladstone extension would also provide for the expansion in agricultural and coal freight from the Surat Basin region.
4). The economic impacts for regional Queensland are huge and support the regional
development and decentralisation objectives of the Commonwealth Government.
The T2G inland rail extension would create thousands of jobs in the rail infrastructure, plus subsequent mining and port expansion, grow Toowoomba and Gladstone, remove coal and container rail freight from urban Brisbane lines, plus provide efficient agriculture logistics.
The Australian Rail Track Corporation, who has been tasked to construct the necessary additions and alterations for the Inland Rail project has been contacted for comment.