CONSTRUCTION of a $5.1 billion inland rail line between Brisbane and Melbourne, passing through large parts of the North West, would be under way by 2016 under a Coalition government.
Nationals leader Warren Truss announced the plan for the 2000-kilometre rail link yesterday, saying it would dramatically boost the nation’s freight capacity.
Nationals candidate for New England Barnaby Joyce said it would have a major impact on the region, with the line to pass through the Inverell, Moree and Narrabri areas.
“There’s the New England Highway through the electorate and then we’d have this corridor of commerce to the west,” he said.
“This is about building the economy of western NSW and the New England.
“It’s a great outcome for us and its time has come.”
The line would run between the ports of Brisbane and Melbourne with the Coalition promising $300 million in funding over the next three years to complete environmental assessments and design plans.
It’s been estimated the project would take about a decade to complete.
Investment from the private sector will be vital for the project and Mr Joyce said private investors were already “lined up to do it”.
“They can see they can make money out of it,” he told The Leader yesterday.
Mr Joyce said the plan had been on the drawing board for years – “I spoke about it in my maiden speech in 2005” – and the route was already surveyed.
Depending on the final route, travel time from Brisbane to Melbourne could be cut to as little as 14 hours.
It’s anticipated the line would also link up to the intercontinental rail at Parkes, allowing freight to travel to and from Perth.
In Brisbane, an underground tunnel would be built to the city’s port to reduce the impact of dust and noise, and the Queensland government is promising to contribute $67 million to deliver two of the 10 stages of the project.
Those components include two passing loops and upgrades to 11 rail tunnels near Toowoomba.
Mr Joyce said the Brisbane-to-Toowoomba section would be the most costly to construct.
“This has real economic benefit and is a massive capital investment in our region,” he said.