The decision to launch an independent review into the multi-billion dollar Inland Rail project is being welcomed by an Ipswich politician.
Construction on a controversial 1700 kilometre rail line between Melbourne and Brisbane first got the green light in 2016, under the Malcolm Turnbull-led Liberal Party.
Two sections of the network are proposed for the Ipswich local government area, including between Helidon to Calvert, and Calvert to Kagaru. This has sparked widespread community criticism over fears it will be constructed through vital farmland in southern Queensland.
Member for Blair Shayne Neumann supports the Federal Government’s decision to take a closer look at the planning and cost of the project, saying current plans will also destroy koala habitat.
“Inland Rail has a high impact and low value for rural Ipswich and the Lockyer Valley.
“My argument to the Federal Government will be that the Inland Rail should be looking at an alternative route rather than through pristine farmland and koala corridors,” Mr Neumann says.
”I don’t want the Inland Rail anywhere near rural Ipswich.”
The aim of the rail network is to guarantee freight transportation across Australia, particularly when roads are submerged in floodwaters as the country grapples with the impacts of climate change.
A Senate inquiry report last year, however, warned of major challenges in building the rail network, including the potential for budget blowouts and disruption to small communities, as well as a lack of meticulous planning.
Last week, the Australian Government announced the appointment of Dr Kerry Schott to lead the independent review.
Federal Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government Catherine King is promising the review will include “improved community consultation”.
“The review will give the government a clear-eyed view on what the problems are and the way forward,” Ms King says.
Lockyer Valley council calls for changes to route
Lockyer Valley Mayor Tanya Milligan says her council is not opposed to Inland Rail but supports an independent review.
She hopes affected communities are consulted properly this time around and wants changes to the proposed route.
“Let’s be clear, we’re not interested in misrepresenting any numbers or running a scare campaign,” Ms Milligan says.
“What we want is to secure an alignment that protects and respects our community, and that can only be achieved by diverting around the township of Gatton, not coming straight through it.”
The Inland Rail project is forecasting an expected peak of up to 50 trains per day, including coal trains, during peak periods, she says.
“Few, if any other towns along the entire alignment will suffer more than the Lockyer Valley from train movements, without any corresponding benefits.”