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A $4.7 billion plan for an inland freight rail line from Melbourne to Brisbane via Parkes and Toowoomba will push aside Brisbane’s Cross River Rail project, Shadow Infrastructure Minister Warren Truss said.
Mr Truss over the weekend confirmed Opposition Leader Tony Abbott's plans to ask the Queensland Government to try to fund Cross River Rail, Brisbane’s underground rail.
Queensland’s Transport Minister Scott Emerson has continually said the Queensland Government does not have the $5 billion to fund Cross River Rail.
Mr Truss said the Opposition wanted to concentrate on improving freight into the ports of Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney.
‘‘We have indicated that we see urban public transport as being a state and local government responsibility,’’ Mr Truss said.
‘‘We will be investing in rail, but our priority will be in the traditional area of commonwealth responsibility which is interstate rail freight transport,’’ he said.
Mr Truss said the Coalition wanted to support the inland Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail project.
‘‘We will continue to be supportive of that because it is an interstate rail freight network,’’ he said.
Mr Truss said that a preferred route and economic study in 2006 had been produced by the now-opposition before they lost office in 2007.
The 2006 study showed Melbourne-Brisbane freight market would more than double from 30 per cent to 67 per cent by 2029 with an operative inland rail corridor.
The study said the inland rail was needed by 2020, about the same time as Brisbane’s Cross River Rail, Mr Truss said.
He said the most difficult and expensive part of the project was the stretch from Toowoomba to Port of Brisbane, because of need to traverse the Great Dividing Range.
‘‘In fact it takes over half of the total of the $4 billion cost of the project [to fund] the 100 odd kilometres from Toowoomba down to Brisbane.’’
Mr Truss said the new owners of the Port of Brisbane was interested in being a partner in the project.
‘They see it as being a new market for the Port of Brisbane, bring in freight from northern New South Wales into Brisbane," he said.
‘‘But also there is coal traffic coming in and out of the Port of Brisbane on an antiquated and inadequate line.
‘‘And if that traffic is to be sustained and indeed enhanced with any new coal mines on the Darling Downs, then they will need a much, much better railway line than they have now.’’
However this project schedule estimates the cost is $12.7 billion.
Private sector funding was one avenue to make up the shortfall, Mr Truss aid.
The current Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese, meanwhile, has committed $300 million to the next stage of planning in July 2012, although no final route has been chosen.
This article first appeared on www.brisbanetimes.com.au
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