With the benefit of my 40 years’ experience of investment and innovation in the freight rail industry, my position is that the Melbourne—Brisbane Inland Rail Project is a unique opportunity to get the right infrastructure in place to generate regional growth and wealth for Australia.
This is not just about updating the present railway system based on what we’re doing today; it is a nation-building project that requires long term vision for what we want to be doing tomorrow.
Our objective here should be to increase productivity, lower the cost of doing business and give future generations the ability to compete by exporting into an increasingly competitive world. We need to let that guide our decision making rather than assessing route alignment solely on least cost or narrow engineering criteria that are really only about making our system ‘fit for today’.
If we get that vision right, then we will be able to open up new opportunities and keep growing the economic pie. If we don’t, then we’ve missed the point in doing such a project and future generations will judge it a costly failure.
On a specific level, I have been asked whether a solution for Inland Rail to head north from Mangalore to Shepparton and through Narrandera to Parkes would offer complementary benefits to the extension of the existing Albury to Wagga alignment with a missing link to Parkes. I believe the Narrandera alignment would bring two benefits:
- It would be shorter for through traffic between Melbourne and Brisbane on a new track with lower life cycle operating costs and improved productivity performance.
- It would open a new agricultural supply link to the Murray Goulburn agriculture region north of Shepparton and on to Narrandera, which is not serviced by the Albury Wagga route.
Consistent with my position expressed above, I believe that all options for Inland Rail need to be fully considered to deliver the best solution not just for today but for future generations.