The report highlighted concerns about how Inland Rail will integrate with existing infrastructure in Brisbane and South East Queensland, in particular with regard to route alignment and the future terminal strategy.

The Committee expressed frustration at the ongoing lack of clarity around route alignment and future terminal strategy for Brisbane and South East Queensland. As the report pointed out, “despite over a decade of investigation into the Inland Rail corridor”, the ongoing uncertainty of how the Inland Rail project will integrate with existing infrastructure to connect to Brisbane and South East Queensland requires urgent resolution to see the value of the project fully realised both for industry and taxpayers.

The report acknowledged several options for route alignment, port links and terminal locations which have had varying levels of scrutiny and planning, and rightly call for all such analyses to be publicly released and independently reviewed. Only then should options “form the basis for strategic freight plans” with solutions that minimise passenger rail interaction or avoid it entirely if possible.

The Committee also recommended the prioritisation of domestic supply chain networks over foreign-flagged ships with a competitive advantage. We appreciate the report’s findings that there is indeed direct competition between rail freight and coastal shipping, where both carry containerised freight and bulk freight. To better support Australian business, foreign-flagged ships should remain regulated under a licensing arrangement if they are participating in the domestic freight market.

The report also identified the need for intensive community engagement to harness the full potential economic benefit of the project, particularly for regional Australia. Impacted individuals and communities must be adequately consulted to mitigate impacts wherever possible.

The ARA has been proud to support this effort by hosting three Inland Rail Conferences in partnership with the Australian Logistics Council (ALC), most recently in May in Albury. The agenda focused on how communities can leverage the construction phase to achieve economic growth, develop skills and training programs to boost employment, and dovetail improvements to local infrastructure. We have enjoyed strong participation from local government and support any efforts to bolster engagement with communities.

We welcome the Committee’s recommendation to establish a key industry stakeholder group to formalise ongoing discussions with industry. As Australia’s largest rail industry member organisation, we stand ready to be a productive and active participant on behalf of industry. We look forward to the Australian Government’s response to the Committee’s report.