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(BRISBANE) JUST IN: A national multi-billion-dollar rail infrastructure project is moving full steam ahead, despite Queensland communities refusing to give up the fight over the 1,700-kilometre line #AceNewsDesk report

#AceNewsReport – Apr.20: Peak Crossing community member Jan McGregor said the new infrastructure would see the “scenic” region become known as the “Rail Rim” once it’s built:

Residents say the multi-billion-dollar Inland Rail will devastate Queensland’s Scenic Rim: ‘Peak Crossing, a Scenic Rim town of about 1,000 people west of Brisbane, will be heavily impacted when the Inland Rail is built through its heart’

ABC News: updated 9h ago:

An image of a freshly laid rail track
A newly laid section of the 1,700-kilometre Inland Rail project.(Australian Rail Track Corporation)

Community members have been rallying for years in a “greenfield” section of the rail line called Calvert to Kagaru: Greenfield” is used to refer to an area where a brand new rail line will be built as part of the project, as opposed to using an existing track.

Peak Crossing community member Jan McGregor for Inland Rail.
Jan McGregor is part of a group of Peak Crossing community members fighting the project.(ABC News: Jessica Stewart)

“We’re going to have this Inland Rail and in this particular section — it is primarily up on embankments — nearly all of it [will go] through these open flatland areas, [and] be up on 6- to 7-metre-high embankments, culverts and bridges,” Ms McGregor said.

“It will be highly visible so when you drive up the Ipswich Boonah Road to go for lunch in Boonah, you’ll be going under a 10-metre-high bridge, with 1.8-kilometre freight rail, very loud diesel freight rail trains, double-stacked with containers.

“This lovely little greenfield area, that Brisbane calls its Scenic backyard, will be invaded by nearly 40 train movements per 24 hours, by 2040.”

During the peak of the coronavirus pandemic last year, the federal government gave the $14.5 billion project priority state in a bid to fast-track jobs and kickstart Australia’s economy.

It is one of 15 major infrastructure projects prioritised for approval.

What is the Inland Rail?

The Inland Rail is a 1,700-kilometre rail line connecting Melbourne to Brisbane for the purpose of transporting freight.

The infrastructure project is expected to cost around $14.5 billion and create more than 21,500 jobs across New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland during construction.

The line is divided into 13 projects, five of which are north of the Queensland and New South Wales border.

Brisbane to Melbourne inland rail alignment map, April 2021
Brisbane to Melbourne inland rail alignment map, April 2021.

Inland Rail CEO Richard Wankmuller said it’s one of Australia’s biggest infrastructure projects “since the Sydney Harbour Bridge”.

“The long-term benefit of Inland Rail is to make the nation more competitive,” Mr Wankmuller said.

“Presently … the way we move goods and products around the country is very inefficient, if you compare it to world standards.”

Some of the country’s most frequented roads are clogged with trucks transporting goods.

A Pacific National train in the country.
The end goal is to move freight from Melbourne to Brisbane in 24 hours or less.(ABC News: Lucy Barbour)

Both the state and federal governments, who are working together in a bilateral arrangement to fund the project, are hoping it will give Australia an economic boost.

“I think it’s one of the biggest economic impacts that we can have in this country for a long, long time,” Mr Wankmuller said.

The end goal of the project will see freight move from Melbourne to Brisbane in 24 hours or less.

‘These are real people’

Each section of the Inland Rail is in a different stage of project delivery.

Community members in the Kagaru to Calvert lines have recently been given the opportunity to respond to the Australian Rail Track Corporation’s (ARTC) draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

The document took several years to produce and residents were given 11 weeks to respond with submissions.

Peak Crossing community members with ARTC's Draft Environmental Impact Statement.
Residents are mainly concerned over noise and environmental impacts.(ABC News: Jessica Stewart)

“We had 77 days to respond and that included Christmas and New Years so it came out just before Christmas, during the holiday period,” Ms McGregor said.

“The submissions closed on March 8 and ARTC have an opportunity then to respond to all of the submissions — there were over 800 submissions received for this particular section of the rail from the community, which is a fantastic response.

“We would really, really like the state government and the ARTC to take the concerns of the community really, really seriously.”

A drone image of a railway line under construction, with paddocks either side.
The Inland Rail project is being fast-tracked by the federal government. The Parkes to Narromine stretch of the rail is already almost completed.(Australian Rail Track Corporation)

The major concerns of Peak Crossing residents surround noise and environmental impacts and the subsequent fair and appropriate mitigation.

“In the EIS, people that live in this corridor are called receptors, and in some cases, if you live within 2 kilometres, you’re called potentially a sensitive receptor,” Ms McGregor said.

“But what we need people to understand is the receptor actually represents a home, a family, a group of people, a business, a tourism facility.

“It’s not some box — these are real people, real livelihoods and real environment.

“So what we want is real answers … if this train line is going to through such a high-value beautiful greenfield area, it needs real protection, the people need noise barriers, so the community can retain at least some of its peace and quiet.”

It’s up to Queensland’s Coordinator-General to compile all the responses and then provide them to the ARTC and the Inland Rail.

Inland Rail's Richard Wankmuller
Chief Executive Officer of Inland Rail at the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) Richard Wankmuller.

“[The Coordinator-General will] pick up the learnings and key messages, group them together and then will come to us and say ‘OK, you need to address this, how are you going to address this, what are you doing about this, what are you doing about that’,” Mr Wankmuller said.

“So that’s a very detailed process.

“They’ll put certain conditions of approval on us, and say you’re good to go as long as you address this and that.”

Mr Wankmuller said he understood residents would never have expected to have a rail line built through their properties.

“You have to have complete empathy for these people, we’re imposing on them, they’re not imposing on us, we’re imposing on their everyday life,” he said.

“So it’s our obligation to try to make sure that process allows them to engage.”

‘It’s a mess for Queensland’

Concerns aren’t just being voiced from Calvert to Kagaru.

Residents in the other four sections of Queensland’s rail line are also deeply worried about how the project will impact their community.

The final stage of the rail line is Kagaru to Acacia Ridge (K2ARB), which travels through the suburbs of Greenbank, Forestdale, Hillcrest, Larapinta and Algester.

Sign reads: Inland Rail: Don't dissect our farms
Farmers have been protesting against the rail line for years.(ABC News)

Anne Page lives at Greenbank and said she currently has freight trains pass near her home, but only eight to nine per week.

“As we know, with the proposed EIS for C2K, it’s saying that there could be, you know, 45 or more trains per day, which is more than one train every half an hour, that’s a big difference to eight to nine trains a week,” Ms Page said.

“In the area of West Logan, which is on the eastern side of the Teviot Range and Flinders Peak area, there are really massive State Government development areas for residential homes.”

Ms Page said some residents feel the Inland Rail is a “mess for Queensland”.

“We’re continually frustrated by the economic argument that always has priority,” Ms Page said.

“Economic argument is important but in this day and age, the community expects all levels of government and all development to be accountable for the community well-being, for the community’s health and also for the environment.”

“No amount of money can mitigate the impacts on these things.”

But the project will create more than 12,000 jobs in Queensland during the peak of construction.

“Queensland’s the biggest beneficiary by far … these are jobs that are needed coming out of COVID right now,” Mr Wankmuller said.

“They’re also jobs that people are going to live there and spend money.

“We’re going to spend over $7 billion in Queensland alone.”

Stresses on mental health ‘huge’

Community members in the Calvert to Kagaru (C2K) section of the rail said they’ve been fighting the battle for years.

In 2008, the proposed line first surfaced as the “Southern Freight Rail Corridor”.

The idea “died down” for a few years and then re-surfaced as the Inland Rail project from 2017.

Jeffrey Johnson-Abdelmalik from the C2K Action Group said the mental toll on residents has been immense.

“We’ve gone through enormous stresses in the last decades of droughts and so on, the stresses on mental health are huge and this Inland Rail is going to create a very significant impact on people,” Mr Johnson-Abdelmalik said.

“I realise that it is probably going to go through but that is no excuse for the lack of concern and care for the environment and people’s wellbeing.

“This is not a once-in-a-generation opportunity, this is a once-in-a-century opportunity — we need to get this right.

#AceNewsDesk report ………..Published: Apr.20: 2021:

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