An independent panel of five experts has been appointed to assess flood modelling developed for Inland Rail in Queensland.

The Federal and Queensland Governments have appointed the five international experts to provide the highest level of assurance for the design of the massive project.

The panel will consist of Mark Babister, Tina O’Connell, Ferdinand Diermanse, Steve Clark and Martin Giles.

The experts will undertake analysis of flood models and hydraulic designs where Inland Rail crosses floodplains in Queensland, developed by Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC).

The panel will ensure national guidelines and industry best practice are followed in the development of these models.

Federal Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, Michael McCormack, said the panel collectively had more than 130 years’ of experience, and would use their knowledge to analyse existing flood modelling and the proposed engineering solutions against national and state guidelines and industry best practice – a process that will be independent of the ARTC.

“In doing so, they are building on years of work by world-leading companies – which have brought together the latest data on land use, geomorphology, hydrology and hydraulic modelling,” Mr McCormack said.

“This has included a review initiated by the Southern Darling Downs Community Consultative Committee (CCC) undertaken by Dr John Macintosh, who has found ARTC’s flood modelling to be fit for purpose.

“The rigorous approvals process put in place by the Australian and Queensland governments means that before a sod is turned the project has undergone robust and transparent analysis, including independent community feedback and multiple layers of expert peer review.”

The panel will test and provide expert advice on all existing flood models to ensure that they are fit-for-purpose, while the ARTC continues to progress the design, consultation and approvals processes required to get construction underway.

The panel is not tasked with reviewing alignment options.

It is hoped this expert assessment will provide assurance to Queenslanders, test the flood modelling as scientifically sound and robust, and take into account the knowledge and experience of communities that live and work on these floodplains.

The panel members’ conclusions will also inform the Queensland Coordinator General’s assessment of ARTC’s draft Environmental Impact Statements for the state.

The terms of reference for the independent panel were finalised following a period of public consultation in April 2020.

The findings of the panel will be publicly released once their work has been completed. Stakeholders will have the opportunity to monitor the panel’s progress through published reports.

Queensland Minister for Transport and Main Roads, Mark Bailey, congratulated the panel members on their appointment and emphasised their contribution would ensure floodplain and river crossings are constructed safely.

“The panel’s comprehensive evaluation of existing flood modelling and reference designs, combined with requirements under Commonwealth and state planning laws means Queenslanders can be confident we are leaving no stone unturned in the assurance that design of floodplain and river crossings meet with national and state engineering requirements,” Mr Bailey said.

Mr McCormack said the economic benefits of Inland Rail for Queensland would include 7,200 jobs during construction and operation and a boost of more than $7 billion to Gross State product.

“This infrastructure project is about more than construction; Inland Rail will boost productivity in Australia’s freight and transport network by reducing heavy vehicle congestion and providing easier access for regional producers to capital cities,” he said.

View more information on the independent panel of international experts, including the terms of reference, here. Stakeholders can make submissions to the panel on matters relating to flood modelling for Inland Rail in Queensland here.

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