DARLING Downs landholders have been left with a less than clear understanding of when they will learn how the inland rail will be engineered across 16km of the agriculturally important Condamine floodplain.
Despite the federal government promising last week to fast track the engineering and technical options for the 2km wide study corridor, representatives from the Australian Rail Track Corporation were at a loss to explain how the proposed 18-24 month study period could be accelerated.
A joint statement issued by Infrastructure Minister Darren Chester and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said the ARTC had agreed to fast-track its assessment of engineering and technical options.
“We would like to see this information shared with the community as soon as possible,” the statement reads.
“It is important they know and have input into what engineering solutions will be needed to address flooding challenges and minimise impacts to local landholders.”
The promise followed a revolt by Queensland National MPs led by federal member for Maranoa David Littleproud, demanding details of how the controversial infrastructure can be built across the prime agricultural land without impacting flood patterns or unduly impacting farming operations.
An ARTC information meeting in Brookstead heard the design would likely include “box culverts, pipes and bridges”.
Landholders remain concerned that ARTC will construct a 2-2.5m high gravel based levy bank across the floodplain to carry the inland rail track. Landholders say regardless of how many culverts and pipes are included in the design, flood water will back up and water flowing through the culverts and pipes will be under increased pressure, resulting in an increased erosion risk.
The meeting also heard that farmers who had their land dissected by the inland rail would be required to telephone ARTC to gain permission to cross the rail line to access their paddocks.
However, when pressed for details on how the engineering study would be fast tracked, it seems ARTC can only attempt to employ suitably skilled engineers sooner than had been previously envisaged.
Member for Condamine Pat Weir said it was still unclear how the inland rail could be built across the floodplain given the area was covered by Queensland’s Regional Planning Interests Act. That legislation was introduced by the former LNP government to protect prime agricultural land during the resources boom, but appeared to have been ignored to date by ARTC, he said.
The Brookstead meeting was one of a series held during the past week at the insistence of federal member for Groom John McVeigh.
Mr McVeigh said he had called for the meetings to ensure the community was engaged in the development of the $9 billion project, which will link Melbourne and Brisbane by a high speed rail system.
More ARTC information meetings for the border to Gowrie section of the controversial project will be held later this month.
18: Gowrie Junction.