Construction of the 1,700km Inland Rail has officially begun with Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack turning the first sod at the site in Parkes, NSW.
Construction of the first 5.3kmt has started in Parkes, and around 98km of existing corridors are being upgraded between Parkes to Narromine.
Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) CEO, John Fullerton, said the start of Inland Rail construction heralds an historic and important milestone not only for the regions but the whole of Australia.
“The sod-turn for Inland Rail is a significant, momentous occasion and it’s fitting to celebrate it at the site where the first greenfields section of Inland Rail will be built. When Inland Rail is operational, Parkes will be an important hub with double stacked, 1800m trains connecting west to Perth and Adelaide and along the east coast between Melbourne and Brisbane,” Mr Fullerton said.
“Australia’s rail system has always been essential to the freight supply chain and once built, Inland Rail will enhance the national freight rail network – creating jobs, reducing supply chain costs and making Australia more competitive by linking-in with other major infrastructure to connect cities and farms to markets; faster, safer and more efficiently.”
Australasian Rail Association (ARA) CEO, Danny Broad, said, “This is Australia’s largest freight rail infrastructure project and today’s significant milestone is welcomed by Australia’s freight rail sector.
“When the line becomes operational in 2025, it will facilitate rail freight direct between Brisbane and Melbourne in less than 24 hours, significantly improving current capacity and transit times.
“Importantly, this will also remove truck movements from major highways which will improve safety, environmental outcomes and will mean north-south freight movements can bypass Sydney.”
Inland Rail will become a key plank of Australia’s freight system, directly connecting Australia’s second and third largest cities by rail, allowing double stacking of containers on trains of up to 1.8km in length.
“Its economic benefit is further enhanced at the intersection at Parkes with the East-West rail line, opening up Adelaide and Perth for traffic, as well as the major NSW ports,” he said.
“Key infrastructure like Inland Rail will improve the efficiency of our freight system. ARA looks forward to complementary infrastructure initiatives, regulatory reform and planning that will be found in the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy, to be considered by Transport Ministers in 2019.”
Inland Rail CEO, Richard Wankmuller, echoed the sentiments, saying Inland Rail will transform the way Australia moves freight around the country and support the economy into the future by providing the backbone for a world-class supply chain.
“With Inland Rail we will have a more resilient rail network, with multiple pathways to meet the needs of our customers while also providing flexibility for our farmers by connecting to existing regional freight lines,” said Mr Wankmuller.
“Inland Rail is the safe, sustainable, integrated solution that will help address Australia’s current freight inefficiencies. This new 1700km freight rail line will help capture commercial opportunities in both metropolitan and regional areas through more efficient and commercially responsive supply chains.
“ARTC is focused on timely project delivery and with support from the government, in partnership with the private sector and hand in hand with the community, we will ensure as many of the benefits as possible from Inland Rail will flow to local regions as well as the national economy.”
ARTC Chairman, Warren Truss, said with Inland Rail now in construction, the benefits and jobs are being realised around the nation with Aussie steel from Whyalla, concrete sleepers being fabricated in the NSW Southern Highlands, ballast coming from Parkes and culverts produced in Tamworth.
“Inland Rail will generate opportunities and benefits to the regions – 16,000 jobs and $16 billion dollars to the economy and will stimulate business activity beyond the construction phase,” said Mr Truss.
Inland Rail offers a road competitive service which will reduce transit times for freight movements between Melbourne and Brisbane by rail to less than 24 hours, with reliability, freight availability and pricing to meet growing customer needs.
Inland Rail will include approximately 1100km of major upgrades and enhancements to existing track and construction of approximately 600km of new track.