AN Inland Rail Summit is set to held in Toowoomba in September in a bid to strengthen support for the controversial $14.5 billion project.
Speaking at the 2022 Australian Local Government Association General Assembly in Canberra on Sunday, Toowoomba Regional Council Mayor Paul Antonio said he wanted to leverage as much as possible from the Inland Rail to build prosperity across regional Australia.
"I see great benefit in bringing together all councils, as well as industry across the alignment, to share insights and opportunities," Cr Antonio said.
"Inland Rail is a complex project and one that needs the combined effort of local, state and federal governments to be successful."
The summit will be hosted by business group Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise (TSBE), which has strongly supported the project.
Inland Rail builder, the Australian Rail Track Corporation, has also thrown its support behind the summit.
Cr Antonio said he would also be approaching the new Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government Minister Catherine King to play a central role in the summit.
Ms King's support will be crucial. Prior to the election, the then opposition infrastructure spokesperson said there were real concerns about the escalating cost of the 1715km line. The entire Inland Rail project between the Port of Melbourne and the Port of Brisbane would be reviewed if Labor won government, she said.
In addition to rising costs, the project is controversial in Queensland because of its potentially negative impact on the agriculturally important Condamine River floodplain and communities along the proposed rail route.
TSBE chief executive officer Ali Davenport said the summit would bring councils together, which were looking to create new economic opportunity, to understand the status of Inland Rail and to discuss opportunities to minimise impacts on local communities.
"There are 36 local government areas along the Inland Rail alignment and businesses and communities are looking for certainty so they can continue to plan and get on with delivering the jobs and economic growth this infrastructure will bring," Ms Davenport said.
"We are looking to bring as many local government, state and federal government agencies and economic development groups along the route together in September."
Ms Davenport said the summit's program would be developed over coming weeks, with input sought from councils.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.