MP: Inland Rail could be built to Gladstone in 2-3 years
Inland Rail could be built between Toowoomba and Gladstone in as soon as two to three years if all levels of government can get everything lined up, according to member for Rockhampton Barry O’Rourke.
Labor Party members joined Central Queensland mayors and other stakeholders in a roundtable discussion at the Empire Hotel in Rockhampton on Monday, May 17.
Mr O’Rourke said research by Regional Development Australia Central and Western Queensland (RDACWQ) deputy chairman John Abbott showed significant savings for the route.
He said the Gladstone option would slash freight costs by 50 per cent.
“We have a port which you can bring some of the largest ships into and there’ll be so much savings in that space around the import/export,” Mr O’Rourke said.
“To me, it just makes sense.”
He said there could be between 500 to 700 jobs created in Rockhampton with local manufacturing at the railyards.
Mr O’Rourke said he’d had conversations about the Gladstone route in parliament, and also invited senator Anthony Chisholm to visit Rockhampton.
“I’ll be doing everything that I can to try and secure Inland Rail down to Gladstone,” Mr O’Rourke said.
He accused the LNP of not showing support for the Inland Rail at a federal level.
Labor candidate for Capricornia Russell Robertson said the project would increase container freight coming to Rockhampton.
“We want to see that increased manufacturing here, we want to see that Inland Rail come all the way to Rocky, or at least Gladstone,” Mr Robertson said.
“It’s a great initiative that Labor people can really get behind.”
Senator Chisholm said the next Senate inquiry would be held in Gladstone on June 8.
The senate inquiry into the Inland Rail was extended again on May 13, now to be handed down on August 11.
According to Senator Chisholm, the extension was to hear from people in Gladstone due to the increased advocacy of the Gladstone route.
“It’s really opened up my eyes about what the benefits are, for Central Queensland but also contrast that with the ongoing difficulties the inland rail’s facing in southeast Queensland,” he said.
“It just makes sense for it to be seriously considered in going to Gladstone.”
He said a benefit would be that if both lines to Brisbane and Gladstone were to be built, the latter would be finished quicker.
“If you look at the long term future of this region, if the Inland Rail came to Gladstone, it would set that port up to prosper for the next 50 years,” senator Chisholm said.
“You hear the benefits for Rockhampton, which isn’t directly on the route, but given the history of rail, the work that’s gone on here with agriculture - there’s enormous benefit here.”
Inland Rail has been controversial through the Darling Downs, particularly near Millmerran due to flooding issues and the impact the vibration could have on the soft black soil.
Senator Chisholm said if the Gladstone route went ahead, some of these issues could be alleviated.
“I’ve been to Millmerran multiple times now, I’ve heard from the local community and the ARTC and the federal government don’t seem to be listening to concerns of the local residents, and unfortunately, that’s a common problem all through the proposed route at the moment,” Mr Chisholm said.
He accused the LNP for being in power for so long and doing nothing for the Gladstone proposal, and said federal member for Flynn Ken O’Dowd was ‘ineffective’.
Rockhampton mayor Tony Williams said the Gladstone proposal would benefit all of Central Queensland and all mayors in the Central Queensland Regional Organisation of Council supported it.
“This’ll take all levels of government working together to achieve that and I think there’s opportunity there for everyone to get on board,” Cr Williams said.
Mr O’Dowd was contacted for comment, and said the Inland Rail link could save nine days turnaround between Melbourne and Gladstone.
“I have been advocating for the Inland Rail link to come to Gladstone for many years now along with Barnaby Joyce,” Mr O’Dowd said.
“I will continue to do so with the support from local stakeholders such as the RDA, Gladstone Port Authority, Gladstone Regional Council, Banana Shire Council and CQUni.
“I will not stop lobbying the department of infrastructure, transport and regional development for them to consider Gladstone as a future option although the AECOM preferability study did not support both route.”
He said the ARTC recently described the Gladstone idea as a ‘great opportunity’.
“The Inland Rail will also drive significant investment in regional communities, create local jobs and contribute millions to local and national economies,” he said.
“I support decentralisation and the need to seek investment from all levels of government along with investment from private investors.”
Mr O’Dowd said the Port of Brisbane could not take vessels as large as those that could get into Gladstone, and he said there needed to be a port that could handle large ships given there was a significant increase in product from places like Asia.
“The State Labor Government needs to come to the party and start to invest in the development of the Gladstone Port and make sure it is equipped with what is need to support the loading and unloading of containers,” he said.
But he doesn’t think the proposal would work if new coal mines in Wandoan aren’t supported.
“There is a lot of things in favour of this project we just need the State Labor Government to come on board and sit down with us before we can make this whole thing happen and make the business case stack up.
“The Central Queensland region is developing into a major energy resources hub and the Gladstone port is in prime position to distribute natural resources all over the world and to our own backyard.
“I would like to see this happen tomorrow.”
According to Mr O’Dowd, trucking companies would prefer to deliver freight to southeast Queensland from Toowoomba rather than Acacia Ridge, due to logistic issues such as urban infrastructure and the proposed tunnel network.