Backlash after cheapest Inland Rail route revealed
RESIDENTS in Millmerran have reacted with disappointment after the costings for the proposed Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail showed the route through Millmerran was the cheapest of four options.
Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester on Thursday met with the chairman of the Yelarbon to Gowrie Project Reference Group Bruce Wilson AM for an update on the initial capital costings being undertaken as part of the Yelarbon to Gowrie Inland Rail alignment review.
The analysis found the Inglewood through Millmerran was the least expensive followed by the Wellcamp and Charlton option, Karara and Leyburn, and the Warwick option.
The route has become a controversial issue with landholders in Millmerran and Felton.
The Millmerran Rail Group, which represents landholders in the locality about an hour's drive south-west of Toowoomba, released a statement expressing "extreme disappointment" about the early release of details.
"The Project Reference Group process of independent review of the four available corridor options has not yet concluded and further discussions are still ongoing," a spokesman for the group said.
"As a result of this premature announcement the affected communities could draw a conclusion that a decision has been made on this alignment. This is definitely not the case."
Members of the group have put forward what they call a credible case to demonstrate "how unsuitable a corridor through the district actually is".
"This proposed corridor passes through five towns, numerous properties and businesses including intensive livestock production enterprises," the spokesman said.
"Other important areas potentially affected include a Grain-Corp depot facility and two school locations. This corridor also has to cross (about) 20km of major flood plain including the Condamine River its tributaries."
Mr Chester said said: "We believe in the future of regional Australia, and the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail project will deliver benefits today and in 100 years from now,
"The process in determining the best alignment in this section is important and will be a balance between community, economic, and environmental considerations.
"I can assure all communities which could potentially be affected by this critical infrastructure project that the Australian Government and Australian Rail Track Corporation will continue to engage with them as we move into the next stage.
"In the long term we will also be working with locals to maximise the benefits of this major freight corridor at a local and regional level."
Mr Wilson said the technical consultants are continuing their work and will provide further detail to PRG Members at their next meeting.
"I will be providing the Minister with the report on the transparency of the review process and an update on the continued community engagement," Mr Wilson said.
The spokesman for the Millmerran group said: "This proposed corridor has the potential to cause major disruption and dissection of agricultural land assets and a variety of other impacts.
"As a group we have conducted site visits with engineers, provided photographic and video evidence in relation to flooding matters, and facilitated discussions with business owners as to the potential impact this project may cause.
"Residents whose families have lived in the district for generations have also written to Minister Darren Chester with factual information to ensure he is equipped with the knowledge required to deliver the correct decision for the most appropriate alignment.
"The Millmerran Rail Group has abided by the requirements of the PRG process and sought professional opinions that verify our opposition to the line passing through this district.
"The group has put forward justified reasons as to why the project should not be located along this corridor.
"The risk to property and people relating to the flood issue alone should be taken very seriously.
"We are also concerned that the project must abide by state and local government laws in relation to project development, and does not override these laws when other developers and landholders are required to abide by those regulations.
"It must be noted that the Millmerran Rail Group supports the rail development from Melbourne to Brisbane. However, given the project has a life expectancy of approximately 100 years it is imperative that the alignment of the corridor is positioned in the right location to minimise community and business disruptions.
"The PRG is yet to discuss in detail the full costings related to the alignment options. Therefore, no conclusion should have been drawn by anyone as to the most appropriate alignment of the corridor until the process is completed. To this extend the Millmerran Rail Group hopes that the Minister has not compromised the process with the public statement released last week."