This week’s Federal budget included up to $8 billion for an inland freight rail network to travel between Melbourne and Brisbane.
Several options for the route’s path have been considered over the past few years before one was settled and money was committed this week.
The freight train will skirt Tumut on its path between Albury and Wagga, meaning that there will likely be flow-on effects locally.
Snowy Valleys Council Administrator Paul Sullivan said there is a possibility local exports could hook into the network and get goods to ports in a short amount of time.
“I’m not sure if it’ll be something that will be appropriate for timber, but there’s a good chance it will be,” he said.
“We should find out more as they release more details.”
The track is being built by the Federal Government owned Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC), who said that the infrastructure will prove necessary in coming decades.
“Inland Rail will comprehensively address a longstanding national infrastructure priority. By 2030, Australia’s domestic freight volume is projected to grow by 80%. Existing road and rail networks will simply not cope with this increase in freight,” an ARTC spokesperson said.
“Inland Rail will provide significant opportunities for manufacturers and other exporters, making it faster, cheaper and more reliable to move goods around the country and the world.
“It will make it easier to connect our farms, mines, cities and ports to national and global markets. Two million tonnes of agricultural freight will switch from road to rail, with a total of 8.9 million tonnes of agricultural freight more efficiently diverted to Inland Rail.
“Carbon emissions are substantially decreased by using less then one-third of the fuel of road transport.”
The total track, which runs for 1,700 kilometres, is expected to create 16,000 jobs during its construction, according to the government. However, the Albury-Illabo section (through Wagga) does not require as much work as some of the other parts, such as through remote Queensland.
It also isn’t good news for truck drivers – each train on the inland rail network will carry the equivalent of 110 B-Doubles.
The Albury-Illabo works will involve upgrading existing infrastructure so that it can cope with the increased loads. The ARTC is looking at three possible methods of doing this: lowering the track, raising and widening the bridges, and/or replacing the bridges.
They will be undertaking environmental studies throughout this year, before confirming exactly what will be done in the region.
Public comments can be submitted at inlandrail.artc.com.au/A2I.
The freight network is not expected to be operational until after 2024. It is planned to have a transit time of 24 hours between Brisbane and Melbourne, and to reduce costs for transporters by $10. The ARTC said it will boost Australia’s GDP by $16 billion over 50 years.