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Shifting agricultural freight from road to inland rail could save an additional tens of millions of dollars a year in transport costs, according to a study by the CSIRO.
Work is underway on the $10 billion Melbourne-to-Brisbane inland rail, which CSIRO said could save the agricultural industry an additional $70 million dollars a year in freight costs on top of original estimates.
The agency has completed a year-long analysis of the transport of fruit, vegetables, and processed agriculture such as meat, rice and dairy through central-western New South Wales where the first section of the project is being built.
It found that if existing road trips switched to inland rail from that area alone, the average savings would reach $76 per tonne — seven times the initial estimate of just $10 a tonne.
What you need to know about inland rail
The central-west town of Parkes is to host a national logistics hub, where inland rail will pass through the town and intersect with the Sydney-to-Perth rail line.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack has welcomed the CSIRO report, after being accused of withholding information about the route by farmers further north along the corridor.
Some landholders have threatened to rip up their access agreements over the route selection process, with many arguing the line unnecessarily dissects properties which they argue devalues them and creates operational challenges.
Mr McCormack said the report proved the project was a "game-changer" that would see more money going into farmers' pockets as a result of cheaper freight costs.
Advocates vindicatedParkes district farmer Neil Westcott has had a flurry of people on his property as works began on the Parkes-to-Narromine section of the rail.
The existing line on his property is being replaced and more trains, travelling at faster speeds, will eventually travel through his farm.
The grain grower is supportive of the project, arguing Australia needs to be smarter about how it gets product to market.
Tension on the track
The Melbourne-to-Brisbane inland rail line is touted as a nation-building infrastructure project that will bring huge benefits to the bush. But the $10 billion venture won't save all the dying, tiny towns along its route.
He said he hoped the CSIRO's report convinced other affected farmers of the corridor's benefit, and described the predicted cost savings as "enormous".
The National Farmers Federation also praised the findings, pointing to the international trade opportunities which could be bolstered by more efficient supply chains.
The project is expected to be operational by 2024/25.
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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