http://www.smh.com.au/national/rail-sums-do-not-add-up-says-study-20090506-avej.htmlRail sums do not add up, says study
May 7, 2009
A LONG-mooted 1900-kilometre inland railway connecting Brisbane and Melbourne and running though western NSW would not be financially viable, according to an analysis prepared for the Federal Government.
Preliminary findings from the analysis by the Australian Rail Track Corporation shows that the cheapest version of the inland railway, which would run through such towns as Parkes, Dubbo and Moree, would cost $2.8 billion to build.
But the venture would never make enough money to justify that investment. The analysis found that when future revenues and operating costs of the inland railway were taken into account its net present value would be minus $1.1 billion if it started operating in 2020.
Even when wider benefits - such as environmental gains from getting more trucks off the road and faster transit times for freight - were taken into account the economic costs would outweigh the benefits to the tune of $860 million.
The inland railway has been a pet project for the Nationals, who believe it would revitalise towns in western NSW.
The Howard government took steps to start spending money improving regional tracks to be used for the proposed Melbourne to Brisbane inland freight link.
But after Labor came to power it shelved the initial spending planned by the Coalition and asked the corporation to conduct a detailed scoping study, including financial and engineering analysis of the proposal. The corporation released the preliminary results yesterday.
It identified a route following existing lines from Melbourne via Albury to Cootamundra, Parkes, Narromine, Dubbo, Werris Creek and Moree to North Star near Goondiwindi in Queensland. New track would then have to be laid from North Star to Toowoomba and on to Brisbane. This would cost $2.8 billion to build and would allow freight to be moved from Melbourne to Brisbane in just over 27 hours.
That would be only be marginally faster than the 28 hours it will takeon the existing coastal route through Sydney when the $2.7 billion in planned upgrades to that route are completed by 2019.
In the current economic climate the Government is more likely to continue directing rail investment towards upgrading the existing coastal freight line between Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.