The Australian Government has announced an independent review into the Inland Rail project as it works to get things back on track – a move that has been warmly welcomed by the Victorian Transport Association (VTA).
Federal transport and infrastructure minister Catherine King has appointed Dr Kerry Schott AO to lead the review.
According to King, the government “inherited a project over budget, behind schedule and with no plan for where it will start or end.”
She said, “We are delivering on our election commitment to undertake an independent review to get this nationally important project making progress again without further delays and with improved community consultation.
“The review will give the Government a clear-eyed view on what the problems are and the way forward.”
The VTA has hailed the project for its potential to create productivity and efficiency gains, among the likely net positive contributions to Australia’s intermodal freight system, however says it has been beleaguered by recent cost and route problems.
The review will consider the process for selecting the Inland Rail route and assess the project’s scope, schedule and cost. It will also assess options for the new Inland Rail intermodal terminals to be built in Melbourne and Brisbane and improving rail links to the ports in these cities.
“We concur with Minister King that Inland Rail is critical to build additional capacity and to increase Australia’s freight supply chain resiliency whilst meeting the growing freight task,” said Anderson.
“In its early days the project fostered a collegiate perspective of developing national supply chain infrastructure that would benefit all Australians. But unfortunately, recent project management has taken on a far more adversarial position towards modal value and positioning, with an unhelpful narrative that rail transport is better than road transport, and that Inland Rail will take trucks off our roads.
“This goes against the original spirit and intent of the project, which was to create productivity improvements for freight operators and their customers through greater choice of transport modes. The project was never created to have an adverse impact on one modality over another, but rather to continue our industry’s push towards greater intermodal transport.”
Anderson particularly welcomed scope in the review to assess proposed intermodal terminals in Victoria.
“Six years into the project, and with only another four years until its proposed completion, we still have not decided where the Victorian terminal will be located,” Anderson said.
“The Western Industrial Freight Terminal (WIFT) and the Beveridge Industrial Freight Terminal (BIFT) are currently fighting for recognition, funding and a green light to start building. From a road freight integration perspective, it would seem the best intermodal connectivity will be through the development of the WIFT, whose positioning, connectivity and efficiency would ensure that those this supply chain serves will get the best value with the least disruption.
“The VTA looks forward to playing a constructive role in the review as it considers the views of all stakeholders on a project that has great potential to transform our national supply chain and create growth and greater productivity amongst all the transport modes,” Anderson said.
The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) has also welcomed the review. “The successful delivery of a highly complex program of works like Inland Rail requires close liaison and effective engagement with communities and extensive co-operation with multiple departments and agencies at both Commonwealth and state level,” said an ARTC spokesperson.
“ARTC welcomes this opportunity to work with Dr Kerry Schott AO, the Independent Reviewer, to ensure Inland Rail is a modern freight network that better connects the country.”