Railway line

An inland rail line linking Melbourne and Brisbane via Wagga Wagga, Parkes, Moree and Toowoomba has been commissioned by the Australian Government, with $300 million committed to finalise planning, engineering design and environmental assessments.

Key benefits of the Inland Rail project:

  • dramatically reduce rail freight costs
  • reduce transit times along the eastern states and increase reliability
  • cheaper and more efficient for businesses to send goods to new markets around the country and for export
  • using a mode of transport that is safer and more environmentally responsible.

Construction started in 2018 with three sections of the railway prioritised for development as projects which will bring immediate productivity or reliability benefits. One of these priority projects is the Rosewood-Kagaru section near Ipswich which will bring immediate benefits for freight trains from Toowoomba to Brisbane.

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) is delivering the program under the guidance of the Inland Rail Implementation Group with key roles played by the Queensland, New South Wales and Victorian state governments in the planning and approvals process.

Toowoomba Regional Council's role in the Inland Rail project

The Inland Rail is a Federal Government project, with the route chosen and entirely managed by the Federal Government through the ARTC. Council does not have any power or influence over the Inland Rail alignment or land tenure issues and has not been asked to endorse the route. Council can influence road-rail interfaces and impacts on other Council assets.

Council is lobbying for better outcomes from the Inland Rail project, including additional project elements, to benefit the Toowoomba Region and will continue to work closely with ARTC to minimise adverse impacts where possible.

ARTC is responsible for consultation with landholders and stakeholders on all matters related to the project.

The Federal Government announced in April 2020 that pre-feasibility studies will be advanced for five interface improvement projects that are linked to the Inland Rail project across southern Queensland.

Toowoomba Regional Council, on behalf of the Darling Downs and South West Queensland (DDSWQ) Council of Mayors submitted Expressions of Interest (EOIs) in late 2019 for three projects that were assessed under the Inland Rail Interface Improvement Program by the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications.

The two additional proposals were submitted by Goondiwindi Regional Council and Interlink SQ and Seaway, which have also received approval for the further development of their proposals.

The successful proposals in southern Queensland include:

  • the potential upgrade and re-opening of existing rail lines (West Moreton and South West Rail systems). Upgrade and re-open the existing West Morton Rail System and the South West Rail System to allow these routes to accommodate the same loads as the Inland Rail
  • South Western Rail System – additional connections to Inland Rail. Investigate additional rail connections to the existing South West Rail system. The proposal has the potential to improve rail connections to the Inland Rail to accommodate heavy agricultural, mining and bulk commodity loads from the west and to minimise the need for both road and rail freight loads through Toowoomba
  • a rail provisioning centre – (potential maintenance facility). Under this proposal, the ARTC would build a rail provisioning/maintenance centre for Inland Rail operations at strategic locations in the Toowoomba Region
  • Goondiwindi Regional Council – develop a Goondiwindi to Inland Rail corridor connection through upgrading the current South Western Rail line beside the Queensland and New South Wales border from Kurumbul to Thallon. The proposal has the potential to allow better connectivity to Inland Rail
  • Interlink SQ and Seaway – to develop the South West intermodal project. The proposal has the potential to provide a cost-effective and efficient service through the provision of a ‘hub and spoke’ logistics network. This would include the construction of a new rail siding and a primary regional aggregation and distribution centre (hub) in Toowoomba.

The projects will now proceed to the second stage which is a pre-feasibility study to be conducted by Ernst and Young on behalf of the Department.  

The relevant State authorities - the Department of Transport and Main Roads and Queensland Rail - will be invited to join the process as the first two proposals involve the Queensland Rail freight network.

Council is undertaking the following:

  • lobbying ARTC to ensure all strategic local, state and national roads, where they cross the Inland Rail alignment, are grade-separated to improve safety
  • lobbying to ensure that all other at-grade road/rail interface locations are constructed, as part of the Inland Rail Project, to a suitably configured standard that accommodates appropriate vehicle storage lengths, widths, sight distances, vehicle manoeuvring requirements and clearances for multi-combination vehicles and over-dimensional vehicles including agricultural equipment
  • coordinate with ARTC to ensure road impacts, detours, alignments etc. are suitable and minimise impacts to the community. All roads realigned or impacted by the Inland Rail project will be designed and constructed to current engineering standards
  • actively engaging with and negotiating with ARTC on impacts at Gowrie Junction (including road network and utilities impacts) to achieve the desired outcome for Gowrie Junction Road, Morris Road, Paulsens Road and the northern area transport connectivity via Boundary Street North
  • actively engaging with ARTC to ensure the provision of Boundary Street (west-facing ramps) now as part of the project design development phase, and with the State Government and Federal Government to plan for construction of the west-facing ramps now as part of the project.

 

Council is advocating and lobbying for the following rail infrastructure:

  • to have all unnecessary rail freight movements removed from urban areas (in particular Toowoomba) to improve urban amenity and reduce delays to the operation of other urban transport networks
  • for the Inland Rail Project network to be capable of operating safe and efficient future passenger rail services without compromising the freight objectives
  • for junctions on the main alignment at locations that will readily allow for the possible future connection of all existing rail tracks and corridors in the region
  • actively engaging with ARTC and lobbying government for final design and construction of the Inland Rail tunnel (Toowoomba Range) to include future-proofing width, at least two (2) rail tracks and a water pipeline
  • will allow future passenger rail terminal locations of interest to develop with the review of the Sustainable Transport Strategy (STS) and will engage the State Government now during the design development of the project
  • ARTC to provide their Rail Provisioning Centre (maintenance facilities) at preferred Council locations within the Toowoomba Region, such as Millmerran
  • ARTC for a connection between the proposed Inland Rail alignment and the Queensland Rail South Western System connection/s (Yelarbon and Southbrook areas).

 

  

Council is lobbying ARTC to achieve the following:

  • minimise impacts on Council’s utilities, particularly the water and sewer networks, including realigning the sewer main at Gowrie Junction due to the impacts of the Inland Rail alignment
  • to request adverse noise, vibration and lighting impacts are suitably considered and well addressed and treated along the proposed Inland Rail project corridor
  • other opportunities as they arise in the future.

  

Council is lobbying ARTC to ensure the Inland Rail project properly addresses all stormwater and flooding matters associated with the project during and after construction, including but not limited to:

  • any concentration of stormwater or flood flows
  • changes to any overland flow paths
  • increase in velocities of stormwater or flood flows at drainage structures
  • increase in either water levels associated with stormwater or floodwater flows, during or post-construction.

  

Council is actively engaging with ARTC to ensure the project flood modelling is undertaken utilising industry best practice.

ARTC has developed its own flood model for the Inland Rail project and takes overall responsibility for this model. The ARTC flood model has been reviewed by independent experts and will be continually reviewed as the project develops.

 

Council has two roles with the Inland Rail project:

  1. To provide feedback and input into the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for both the Border to Gowrie (B2G) and Gowrie to Helidon (G2H) sections.
  2. To review ARTC designs with a specific focus on the returned works to Council and impacts on communities such as road re-alignments and utilities impacts. This is part of the interface design aspect and is separate from the EIS process.

An EIS Working Group has been established within Council for internal response to the Inland Rail EIS submission process. Council will be providing a response to ARTC on both Environmental Impact Statements.

Draft Environmental Impact Statement - Border to Gowrie (B2G) section

On 7 April 2021, Toowoomba Regional Council endorsed a submission on the draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Border to Gowrie (B2G) section of the Inland Rail project that will be sent to the Queensland Coordinator General after it is considered again at the Ordinary Meeting of Council on 20 April 2021. Read the Toowoomba Regional Council B2G draft Environmental Impact Statement submission.

Toowoomba Region Mayor Paul Antonio said Council was determined to ensure world’s best practice was adhered to throughout the project in the Toowoomba Region.

Council’s submission, on behalf of the community, detailed specifically how it wished to see the project align with the Terms of Reference requirements as outlined by the State Government (Queensland Coordinator General).

Council's submission has identified several issues with the draft Border to Gowrie Environmental Impact Statement.

The overarching issues include, but are not limited to:

  • construction water sources (preventing the use of any Toowoomba Regional Council water supplies and; need for the proponent to identify and source water from private allocations)
  • identify and protect areas of cultural significance
  • proposed management of road/rail interfaces do not meet the desired outcome of the Federal Rail Safety Guidelines (looking at grade separation and crossing safety, and ensuring access for over-size and wide agricultural machinery)
  • local road and traffic requirements (including provisions for post-construction maintenance)
  • consideration around the operation of the Mt Kent Observatory (protection of dark-sky that supports Queensland’s only professional astronomical research facility)
  • measures to mitigate dust, noise and spill stockpiles
  • appropriate management of flood mitigation in the Condamine Floodplain, and consideration of outcomes of the Independent Expert Panel for flood studies review (plus consideration for hydrology matters across the alignment)
  • current and significant accommodation shortages in the Toowoomba Region
  • appropriate management of providing regional job opportunities for the local community
  • impacts to environmentally sensitive areas (further surveys are required to assist in the identification of core fauna and flora habitats).

Read more on Council's response to the draft B2G EIS in this media release: Council endorses EIS submission media release.

Draft EIS Border to Gowrie (B2G) section

Submissions to the Office of the Co-ordinator General on the Border to Gowrie draft EIS closed on 4 May 2021.

Have your say: Border to Gowrie project - draft environmental impact statement

View the B2G EIS online

The Office of the Coordinator General provided hard copies of the B2G EIS at Millmerran Service Centre and Pittsworth Library. Digital copies are available at Toowoomba City Library.

Further information on The coordinated project process can be found on the Department of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning website. 

 

You can have your say about the Inland Rail project on the ARTC community consultation webpages listed below or via the Community Consultative Committees established by ARTC:

Border to Gowrie (B2G):

Gowrie to Helidon (G2H)

Community Consultative Committees

 

Enquiries on the Inland Rail project can be directed to ARTC on 1800 732 761 or email inlandrailenquiries@artc.com.au

 

Related links

Australian Government Department of Infrastructure & Regional Development: Inland Rail

Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC)