The Australian Track Rail Corporation has confirmed the Turnbull Government’s much-promoted Inland Rail freight project will stop 38km short of the Port of Brisbane.
This is despite the Coalition’s explicit promise in the 2013 election campaign that the project would go all the way to the port and that construction, which is yet to commence, would begin in 2016.
After four years of inaction, the Turnbull Government’s 2017 Budget included an equity injection for the ARTC to build the Inland Rail between Brisbane and Melbourne to expedite passage of goods to the ports of the two cities.
However, ARTC chief executive John Fullerton told a Senate Budget Estimates hearing in Canberra today that current funding was based on the project ending at Acacia Ridge – 38 km short of the Port of Brisbane.
Labor supports Inland Rail as necessary infrastructure in the national interest. Indeed, the former Labor Government completed the feasibility study and invested $900 million to progress the project to the construction stage.
It is time Nationals Leader Barnaby Joyce, who seems to have seized control of this project from Infrastructure Minister Darren Chester, stopped breaking promises and started coming to grips with the design challenges that need to be overcome to make it a reality.
With a project of this scale, it is critical that we get the planning right.
However, the Coalition has form in this area.
In 2014 it invested in the Perth Freight Link proposal – a dud toll road that would not even have delivered on its stated aim of taking freight to the Port of Fremantle.
The project was abandoned by Western Australia’s incoming McGowan Government in March.
The Perth Freight Link proposal was never designed to take freight to the Port of Fremantle and the Westconnex project in Sydney does not go Port Botany.
Good infrastructure requires proper planning.