Except the Pacific motorway upgrades will have no effect on inland rail. Brisbane - Melbourne is really where rail is better than trucks. Truck drivers can't drive for 24 hours straight anymore. One of the biggest points of inland rail is that it will take a container a very similar time to go from its origin in brisbane, to its destination in melbourne.
Why would you use trucks if they are no longer faster, and they are more expensive. Trucks going from brisbane/gold coast - melbourne do not go via the pacific highway. They go inland very quickly and that route is about as fast as it will ever get.
(haven't the 4 lanes have already reached woolgoolga? )
One of, if not the biggest problem that rail still has against road is the point to point ability for road, pick up at transit point and delivery to the end user, the element of no double or really quad handling of freight is always going to be roads big selling point over rail.
The other aspect is that as I live on the Central Coast, the interstate freight trains coming through here are more often than not only halve loaded even on the long trains, including steel, usually the steelies are built up with other traffic on the down and even up they come through primarilly empty, with 3/4 NR's up front.
Aurizon services especially the one that has SCT loading is more often then not fully loaded in both directions. What is seen on them very frequently is containers that are removalist vans Kent in particular.
What does not help the freight task on the NCL is that there is all but nothing that is consigned to towns and locations along the line. Outside of the sugar from Grafton, cement and the like for Boambee, and coal south of Gloucester there is nothing. Unless traffic can be sourced along the line its going to stay the way it us for many a long day.
The other factor regarding the alingment etc. is a problem basically for the whole route, rather than as said by one to be on the lower end of the line Maitland - Gloucester, where in reality its like that for the majority of the line, some short to mid sections are not really found until you get up near Casino.
The crying shame really is that as bad as it is on the NCL, the same problem of no freight by rail is not unique to it, as its a case on each line in NSW, aside from some areas of logs from Bathurst, some grain types, cotton ore and coal. is about it.