Building has started on the $9.3 billion nation building Inland Rail project, raising the ire of Logan, Scenic Rim and southwest Brisbane lobbists who remain scathing in their opposition to the project.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack turned the first sod at Parkes in Central-West New South Wales today, using a 106 year old commemorative shovel usually kept at the National Museum of Australia.
It arrived at the event via a Pacific National double-stacked train and was handed to Mr McCormack by a local farmer.
The shovel has only been used by Prime Ministers previously – five times – to launch construction on major infrastructure nation-building rail projects. The first was on September 14, 1912 at the sod turn to mark the start of construction for the Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie line. The last was by former Prime Minister John Howard in 2001. Mr McCormack is the first Deputy Prime Minister to use it for such an occasion.
Inland Rail Action Group’s Suz Corbett responded with anger.
“The message may be you can’t stop it, but that won’t stop us trying,” Mrs Corbett said.
“Who is this inland rail really for? Not the mums and dads who have worked for their properties. Not those that own farms that have been in their families for generations and about to be cut up.
“What do the people get out of this? We get the noise, carcinogenic diesel fumes, coal dust, vibrations through our homes and the loss peaceful amenity of our land – and in some cases loss of land.
“What else to we get? We get to fund it.”
Mrs Corbett said no was listening to the people.
“We are just a tick in their box,” she said.
“Well, we are no longer little pockets of discontent. We, the communities are showing our discontent all along the line and we are discontented with the politicians … making decisions on a flawed plan that is bringing trains through high density suburbs.”
Parkes is the site of one of 13 individual sections of the 1,700 kilometre rail line between Melbourne and Brisbane.
Inland Rail Action Group is a lobby group made up of Logan and Southern Brisbane residents who live on the 52-kilometre Kagaru to Acacia Ridge and Bromelton section of the Inland Rail.
They say the line will bring as many as 64 double stacked freight trains daily through the Scenic Rim and Logan. There will be coal trains. An estimated 50,000 Logan and south Brisbane residents live on the local segment of the rail line with the number expected to triple in coming decades.
The Australian government says once constructed, Inland Rail will enable faster, bigger, double-stacked trains to move more produce into domestic and international markets, at a lower freight cost.
In a release issued this morning, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the 1,700km ‘corridor of commerce’ would open inland regional communities to investment and export opportunities presented by Free Trade Agreements successfully negotiated by the Liberal and Nationals government.
“Inland Rail will connect rural and regional Australia to millions of customers at home and overseas through key domestic and rapidly expanding international markets,” he said.
“It will also drive significant investment in the communities themselves through the creation of around 16,000 direct and indirect jobs, and a $16 billion contribution to the national economy.
“Our $9.3 billion investment in Inland Rail is a key part of our record $75 billion infrastructure plan which is supporting better freight transport to deliver economic and community gains across the nation.
“Inland Rail is another example of a project which had been discussed for decades until the Liberal and Nationals Government got on with the job of delivering it.”
Mr McCormack said Inland Rail would deliver freight to market at reduced costs, putting more money in farmers’ pockets.
“Inland Rail is game-changing infrastructure,” Mr McCormack said.
“It will deliver jobs, not just during the construction phase, but permanent jobs through increased freight.
“Farmers will be able to move food and fibre between Melbourne and Brisbane, in larger volumes and more cost-efficiently.
“This is truly a once-in-a-generation project and I’m proud to be part of this historic event, marking the formal start of construction.”
Finance minister Mathias Cormann said investment in Inland Rail would help to drive long-term economic benefits.
“For every dollar that we are investing in Inland Rail it will return $2.62 to the national economy,” Mr Cormann said.
“Construction will enable industry and businesses to invest back into their local communities, injecting critical funds back into regional economies.”
The construction contract for the Parkes to Narromine section of Inland Rail is worth more than $300 million and so far more than 14,000 tonnes of steel has been delivered to the site.
There are 187 live contracts for materials, goods and services worth $637 million associated with Inland Rail, including the manufacturing of 200,000 concrete sleepers.
The first double-stacked freight train is expected to run between Melbourne and Brisbane in the mid-2020s.