THE controversial Queensland section of the Melbourne to Brisbane inland rail project will cross the agriculturally important Condamine floodplain.
Infrastructure Minister Darren Chester advised affected mayors of decision yesterday.
The contentious decision will be made public at a media conference in Toowoomba this morning. At lunchtime Mr Chester will also address the Rural Press Club in Brisbane.
Mr Chester said the base route between Yelarbon and Gowrie was the best option.
“Having considered the results of the like-for-like review of four alignment options, the corridor via Wellcamp and Charlton has been selected as the most suitable corridor to progress as the Border to Gowrie Inland Rail project,” Mr Chester said.
“The government’s decision takes into account the results of a multi criteria analysis, the inland rail service offering, a construction cost comparison, and the long-term strategic merits of the Wellcamp-Charlton alignment.
“While cost is not the over-riding factor in decision making for the preferred alignment, the Wellcamp-Charlton option has the lowest incremental cost compared to the base case.
“It also offers the shortest transit time, and has the additional long-term strategic merit of leveraging existing rail and road infrastructure and well established agricultural supply chains.”
However, there is still no detail of the engineering costs of constructing a high speed rail lines on 16km of deep ‘bottomless’, black soil plains.
There is also no detailed information how the construction of the levy banked based structure would impact on flood water flows or impacts on agricultural production.
Mr Chester said he had written to landowners along all alignments considered as part of the review to advise them of the government’s decision.
We were promised consultation, we were promised answers and we were ignored.
He said former senior public servant Bruce Wilson AM, who headed the heavily criticised project reference group (PRG), will also be involved in a new local community consultative committee.
“A key task for the Border to Gowrie Community Consultative Committee will be to provide feedback to the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) on issues of concern to landholders, businesses and residents,” Mr Chester said.
“I have also asked the ARTC to work directly with affected landholders to refine the design of the railway.
“The final design will be subject to an extensive planning and approvals process, which will work through questions raised by the community about technical and environmental aspects.”
Mr Chester said ARTC would be providing information on how the community could have its say, including the nomination process for membership of the Border to Gowrie Community Consultative Committee.
“Inland Rail is a significant investment in south Queensland that offers the potential to better connect the region’s economy with global markets,” Mr Chester said.
“I look forward to working cooperatively with you and your community to make the most of this opportunity.”
However, Condamine floodplain landholders said the government had also failed to deliver on promised consultation.
Millmerran landholder Wes Judd, whose country is on the floodplain, said Mr Chester suffered from a serious credibility problem.
“We’re asked the questions and we haven’t been given answers, certainly not the actual engineering of the line across the floodplain and how much it will ultimately cost,” Mr Judd said.
“We were promised consultation, we were promised answers and we were ignored because it seems the government was only ever intent on paying lip service to this process.
“Now Chester is again calling on the community to participate in a consultative committee in an environment where trust has already been well and truly destroyed.”
Jed Cameron, a landholder south of Millmerran, said the decision was devastating.
“It would be one thing if the process was open and transparent as was promised by Darren Chester,” Mr Cameron said.
“Instead we have been shafted and left with no confidence in the process because it has not been properly shown how each of the alternative compare.
“One thing is for certain, this land will have to be compulsorily acquired if the federal government is going to get its hands on it. Don’t expect anyone to be a willing participant in this farce.”
The inland rail will terminate at Acacia Ridge, about 35km short of the Port of Brisbane, adding to concerns about how the system would provide the proposed less than 24 hours service.