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THE Brisbane section of the Inland Rail realignment has become a hot potato, with no-one in either state or federal politics willing to take responsibility for triggering stronger environmental measures being demanded by affected communities.
Southside and Logan communities are concerned about the impact the almost $10 billion project will have on the lives of more than 50,000 people who live locally along the route.
Every week, up to 40 freight trains use the existing railway line that runs through Parkinson, Algester and Acacia Ridge, as well as suburbs in Logan.
Acacia Ridge and Algester residents came together to take a stand against the inland rail project. Photo: Kristy MuirBy 2040, that number of trains will travel along the route every day. That will include an average of 12 trains a day carrying coal.
Residents say the establishment of a Community Consultative Committeewill not help and have demanded an Environmental Impact Statement be commissioned instead.
Residents want the State and Federal governments to have the Australian Rail Track Corporation declare the Kagaru to Acacia Ridge and Bromelton section of the 1700km interstate rail line a co-ordinated project, triggering an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
Loaded coal trains will run past Brisbane and Logan homes via the Inland Rail route. Photo: AAP/Dan HimbrechtsThe corporation is responsible for the design and delivery of the Australian Government project, which will run from Melbourne to Brisbane.
AN EIS would then be reviewed by the independent Queensland Co-ordinator-General Barry Broe.
However, when approached by the Southern Star, Mr Broe’s office said the ARTC had not applied for a co-ordinated project declaration — not acknowledging that he had the power to do this without anyone asking him to do so.
“The Co-ordinator-General has not received any application,” the spokesman said.
Member for Algester Leeanne Enoch Member for Logan Linus Power and Member for Jordan, Charis Mullen pushed for a Community Consultative Committee for the Inland Rail project for the Algester/Logan/Jordan electorate area, as is the case in other parts of Queensland.While State Member for Algester and Minister for Environment Leeanne Enoch has been accused of being “all talk no action” by community members, she advised the Southern Star she had called on Deputy Prime Minister and Federal Infrastructure Minister Michael McCormack to “direct the ARTC to commission an EIS”.
“I know that understanding the environmental impacts of this project is important to local residents, and this is why I have written to Mr McCormack calling on him to direct the ARTC to commission an EIS,” Ms Enoch said.
“An EIS is not something that I, as the Environment Minister, or my department, can require of the ARTC.”
Double-stacked freight trains will go along the Inland Rail route. Photo: Australian Rail Track Corporation website.Ms Enoch noted the soon-to-be-established Community Consultative Committee was a “significant” way of giving local residents “a transparent forum” to hold the ARTC accountable and push for an EIS to take place.
Mr McCormack confirmed the Federal Government will not be pushing for an EIS. According to the ARTC, the only way it will undertake an EIS is under direction from State or Federal governments.
But the ARTC notes a Community Consultative Committee is just as effective as an EIS in addressing community and environmental concerns.
Stan and Suz Corbett of Forestdale. Picture: Peter CroninInland Rail Action Group (IRAG) spokeswoman Suz Corbett believes this is misleading and incorrect.
She said the Community Consultative Committee was just a “talkfest” and wouldn’t achieve anything meaningful.
“It’s putting the cart before the horse,” Mrs Corbett said. “The CCC isn’t part of the EIS process.”
Loaded coal trains will run past Brisbane and Logan homes via the Inland Rail route. Photo: AAP/Dan HimbrechtsMrs Corbett said IRAG had a hard copy and online petition to change the final destination of the Inland Rail to Gladstone Port, instead of the Port of Brisbane. The petition has amassed more than 1500 signatures.
“Our campaign to inform communities along the line has gained momentum and as a result we have more members signing up to join our Facebook pages for information and the signatures are now increasing on a daily basis,” she said.
COMMUNITY FEARS FUEL RAIL FIGHTAlgester father-of-two Mallory Wuthrich said there was no doubt coal dust particulates, even at minute levels, were a proven cause of significant health issues, particularly for children.
“My five-year-old son’s school (Algester State School) is only a few hundred metres from the rail line that will see several dozen double-stacked, uncovered coal trains of initially up to 1.8km in length roll through each week,” Mr Wuthrich said.
Algester residents Mallory Wuthrich and Mei-Ya Lin with their children Joshua, 5, and Madeleine, 2 at Col Bennett Park under the existing train track. Photo: Kristy Muir“It is unconscionable that such a proposal should be considered and supported without the application of the highest degree of due diligence from State Government.”
Mr Wuthrich has written to many of the government officials involved with the IR project asking for clarity on who is responsible for commissioning an EIS.
He wrote to Deputy Premier Jackie Trad (on July 30) after she agreed during a radio interview to put him in touch with Minister for State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning Cameron Dick whom he emailed about the Inland Rail realignment on (May 30) to no avail.
“ … I am strongly of the view that the government is being misleading in stating that the reason there is no EIS is because the ARTC hasn’t applied,” he said.
He said there were “legislative levers” at Mr Broe’s disposal “to compel the ARTC to apply for a co-ordinated project which then triggers EIS as part of that”.
Acacia Ridge and Algester residents came together to take a stand against the inland rail project. Photo: Kristy Muir“As Deputy Premier of our State and with your former experience in the Infrastructure and Planning portfolios I would value and appreciate your insights into why the government via the Coordinator-General’s powers would not declare the Kagaru-Acacia Ridge route a co-ordinated project,” Mr Wuthrich wrote in the letter.
“Ms Enoch sent a letter last week to residents placing responsibility for a lack of an EIS onto the ARTC for not applying and also on the Federal Government for not demanding the ARTC
apply for one. Again, the legislation seems quite clear, the State Government via the Coordinator-General can choose to intervene and require the ARTC to submit to this process.
“ … An EIS would facilitate community input into its terms of reference and would also
secure the level of detail needed with regards to air and noise pollution studies to be able to elevate negotiations with ARTC to a meaningful level.”
ARTC workers walk the line. (AAP Image/Russell Millard)WHAT RESIDENTS THINK:Long-time Algester resident Kevin Gray told the Southern Star for the past 39 years he had lived in the same house, only 94m from the existing railway line.
“My family grew up here, went to the local school and enjoyed what the area had to offer,” he said.
“We knew the railway line was there and was aware of the number of trains passing each day. It was minimal and was well-tolerated.
“I, as well as a lot of the community was not aware of the impact the inland rail could have on our lives.
“Most of the residence in this highly-populated area knew of the project, but no details were provided.
“We didn`t even know that it was going along the existing interstate line.
“ … If the inland rail goes ahead along the existing track, coal trains should be excluded for health reasons. Veneering only covers the top section, no protection for sides and floor or load movements. It has been proven in the past that these trains, with all best intentions, does not prevent coal dust from finding its way out, up to 2kms away from the line.
Algester resident Barry Petersen said he had read the letter Ms Enoch had sent to resident and agreed that the “information that we were being told (by the ARTC) was incorrect and the person just kept on saying the same storyline”.
“Comments are made about a line to the (Brisbane) Port as though it will need to be built, the standard gauge line was opened in 1996 and used by standard gauge trains for many years until the Federal Government changed restrictions on coastal shipping which made it cheaper to send containers by sea instead of rail.
“The really sad part about the Inland Rail is that if the line had come directly from NSW to Acacia Ridge then trains would have a major time advantage over trucks but instead vested interests have complained and now to go via Toowoomba that major advantage will be lost.”
Acacia Ridge resident Clare Wang, 39, said the rail line was “right next to the back fence”.
“I feel angry about not being informed about the project and the government let it process without public inquiry,” Miss Wang said.
“I am very concerned for my health and for the public. I have a nine-year-old boy and a mum who live with me.
“We’re worried about the health impact this has on us.
“I definitely think that the government should forbid coal from transporting on (the) inland rail.”
This article first appeared on www.couriermail.com.au
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