Toowoomba Region Mayor Paul Antonio has called on the Federal Government for a solid forward-funding commitment to build the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail line in the coming 2017/2018 Budget.
“It makes sense for the next stage of this transformational transport infrastructure project to start in Toowoomba,” Mayor Antonio said.
The Mayor, in collaboration with Toowoomba Surat Basin Enterprise (TSBE), last week hosted a Transport and Logistics Symposium with key industry and government stakeholders along the route to highlight the opportunities the project would deliver to these regions and the nation.
“All levels of government and industry agree the project will be catalytic to contributing to unprecedented economic growth in Australia, so let’s get on, take the project to the market and get it built,” Mayor Antonio said.
“There also is strong industry agreement that the connection be operational all the way from the Port of Melbourne to the Port of Brisbane, recognising that as well as the line being fast and as efficient as possible, there also must be absolute priority given to servicing Australia’s most agriculturally productive regions.”
Mayor Antonio said the Toowoomba Region, which is one of Australia’s most productive agricultural areas, was the place to start because it included one of the fundamental sections of the line.
“The Gowrie to Kagaru component is one of the most complex and costly sections of the project with the tunnel through the Toowoomba Range expected to cost in the order $2 billion”, he said.
“The Queensland State Government also has a key role in progressing the Queensland sections of the project, so I’m also asking for bipartisan support at the state level in preventing any unnecessary delays to the project.”
Mayor Antonio said the Toowoomba Region exported 3.5 million tonnes of agricultural products per year, with only 180,000 tonnes of this output transported by rail.
“For producers, one of their biggest costs is transport. It’s easy to see that the inland rail will take our production and export industry to the next level because we will be more competitive on the global market,” Mayor Antonio added.
“We already are seeing Toowoomba taking shape as the inland port of Australia, offering a plentiful supply of some of the cheapest, readily zoned industrial land. We have excellent connectivity to existing rail, road and air but the inland rail would be an absolute game changer to our region and Australia in general.”