NR95 and NR11 with 3BM4 intermodal train from Chullora in Sydney to South Dynon in Melbourne, viewed between Yerrinbool and Mittagong in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales, 24 September 2014. The Inland Rail line will convey intermodal and other freight between Melbourne and Brisbane.

CFCLA locomotive GL110 with a train of SQKF copper wagons at Goobang Junction, near Parkes, New South Wales, 3 July 2012. Parkes will be a major hub when the Inland Rail line is operational.

Inland Rail

David Matheson

14 April 2018

 

Inland Rail is a major Australian railway infrastructure development. It involves a freight railway line of 1700 km in length between Melbourne and Brisbane. The route will travel through regional Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. Trains on the Inland Rail line are expected to commence operating in 2024–25. Inland Rail will enable freight to be transported more efficiently in Australia’s eastern states, which will provide economic benefits for regional areas and major cities.

 

The Inland Rail line will use the existing interstate line from Melbourne to Illabo, located between Cootamundra and Junee. Existing track will be upgraded to accommodate double-stacked trains, allowing them to carry up to twice as many containers. A combination of new and upgraded tracks will be used from Illabo via Parkes, Moree, Toowoomba and Calvert, to reach the existing interstate line at Kagaru, south of Brisbane. Environmental assessments and community engagement with local councils, landholders and other stakeholders form a key part of the pre-construction work, particularly in areas where new railway alignments will be built.

 

Some of the key features of Inland Rail are:

  • The Inland Rail line will incorporate 1200 km of existing railway corridors and of 500 km of new track.

  • There are 13 separate projects that are part of Inland Rail: one in Victoria, seven in New South Wales, and five in Queensland.

  • The line will have connections with existing standard gauge lines in New South Wales and Victoria.

  • Dual gauge sections will provide connections to the existing Queensland regional railway network.

  • Inland Rail traverses Australia’s four richest farming regions: Darling Downs in Queensland; West Moreton in Queensland; Northern New South Wales; and the Goulburn Valley region in Victoria.

  • The project will create approximately 16,000 jobs at the peak of construction.

  • Inland Rail will be single track, with a number of passing loops along the route.

  • The line will have 7.1 metre clearances, providing capacity for double-stacked containers.

  • The track will be built to enable trains with up to a 21 tonne axle load to operate.

  • 262,000 tonnes of steel, including 130,000 tonnes of rails, will be required to build Inland Rail.

  • Approximately 1.6 million concrete sleepers will be used on the Inland Rail line.

  • Trains will be able to travel at speeds up to 115km/h.

  • Trains will be up to 1800 metres in length, with the future possibility of trains up to 3600 metres.

  • Transit times between Melbourne and Brisbane will be up to ten hours faster than the existing route.

 

The 13 projects that comprise Inland Rail are listed below.

Tottenham (Victoria) to Albury (Victoria–New South Wales border) (T2A)

This section has approximately 305 km of existing track, which will be upgraded to increase the height clearance, enabling double-stacking. Tottenham is located on the Sunbury line in suburban Melbourne. Work will include track lowering, modifications to road and pedestrian bridges, modifications to signal structures, and track diversion at Wangaratta.

Albury (Victoria–New South Wales border) to Illabo (New South Wales) (A2I)

This section has approximately 185 km of existing track, which will be upgraded to increase the height clearance, enabling double-stacking. Work will include track lowering or shifting, and raising, widening or replacing bridges.

Illabo to Stockinbingal (New South Wales) (I2S)

This section will involve construction of 37 km of new track. This new direct section of track will reduce the existing route between Illabo and Stockinbingal via Cootamundra by approximately 30 km and avoid the Bethungra Spiral.

Stockinbingal to Parkes (New South Wales) (S2P)

This section has approximately 169 km of existing track, which has been upgraded by ARTC, but further work will be required to increase the height clearance, enabling double-stacking. Work will include track lowering or shifting, and raising, widening or replacing bridges.

Parkes to Narromine (New South Wales) (P2N)

This section has approximately 107 km of existing track, which will be upgraded to enable trains to operate at maximum speed. There will be an additional 5 km of new track. Work will include replacing existing sleepers and track with new concrete sleepers and track, track realignment to ease curves, raising track foundations, upgrading and replacing bridges and culverts, new passing loops, and upgrading level crossings, signalling, signage, fencing and utilities. An Environmental Impact Statement for this project has been displayed and submissions are being considered as part of the Project Assessment stage. The New South Wales Department of Planning has declared this section of Inland Rail as Critical State Significant Infrastructure.

Narromine to Narrabri (New South Wales) (N2N)

This section will involve construction of 307 km of new track, and will also follow the existing rail corridor for a short distance south of Gwabegar. Narromine to Narrabri will involve construction of the longest section of new track on the Inland Rail line. Community feedback has led to consideration of alternative alignments in some areas.

Narrabri to North Star (New South Wales) (N2NS)

This section has approximately 185 km of existing track, which will be upgraded to enable trains to operate at maximum speed. There will be an additional 3 km of new track involving a deviation north of Moree. Work will include reconstruction of existing track, track realignment at Bellata, Gurley and Moree, replacing bridges and culverts, new passing loops if required, drainage work and level crossing enhancements. The New South Wales Department of Planning has declared this section of Inland Rail as Critical State Significant Infrastructure.

North Star (New South Wales) to New South Wales–Queensland border (NS2B)

This section has approximately 27 km along the disused railway line to Boggabilla, which will be rebuilt with new track, and 3 km from Boggabilla to Yelarbon, located on the Warwick to Thallon line, which previously extended to Dirranbandi. The new section will include a crossing of the MacIntyre River.

New South Wales–Queensland border to Gowrie (Queensland) (B2G)

This section will take the line from the New South Wales–Queensland border to Gowrie, which is north-west of Toowoomba. The route will travel via

 Pittsworth, Brookstead and the Wellcamp–Charlton industrial precinct. It includes 146 km of new dual gauge track and 78 km of upgraded track. Consultation with local landholders and the community is ongoing.

Gowrie to Helidon (Queensland) (G2H)

This section will involve construction of approximately 26 km of new dual gauge track. Gowrie is north-west of Toowoomba and Helidon is east of Toowoomba. Work will include a tunnel of 6.38 km in length through the steep Toowoomba Range, seven viaducts with a total length of 4.2 km, six bridges with a total length of 520 metres, and three passing loops. An Environmental Impact Statement and approval under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 will be required before this project can proceed.

Helidon to Calvert (Queensland) (H2C)

This section will involve construction of approximately 47 km of new dual gauge track, around half of which will be located within existing rail corridors. Helidon is east of Toowoomba and Calvert is near Ipswich. Work will include a 1.1 km tunnel under the Little Liverpool Range, four viaducts with a total length of 1.5 km, 20 bridges with a total length of 1 km, six grade separations and four passing loops. An Environmental Impact Statement and approval under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 will be required before this project can proceed.

Calvert to Kagaru (Queensland) (C2K)

This section will involve construction of approximately 54 km of new dual gauge track. It will connect the Inland Rail line with the existing Sydney to Brisbane railway line and will divert freight away from metropolitan areas. Calvert is near Ipswich; Kagaru is north of Beaudesert, and is on the existing Sydney–Brisbane railway line. Work will include a 1.1 km tunnel under the Teviot Range, 13 bridges across rivers, 15 grade separations and up to four passing loops. An Environmental Impact Statement will be required before this project can proceed.

Kagaru to Acacia Ridge and Bromelton (Queensland) (K2ARB)

This section has approximately 49 km of existing track, which will be upgraded to increase the height clearance, enabling double-stacking. Kagaru is north of Beaudesert, and is on the existing Sydney–Brisbane railway line. From Kagaru the line will extend south to Bromelton and north to the intermodal terminal at Acacia Ridge. Work will include lowering the track underneath five bridges, the extension of the existing Greenbank and Bromelton passing loops, and the construction of two new passing loops.

 

The Australian Government has committed funding to construction of the Inland Rail line through the Australian Rail Track Corporation, but will also work in partnership with private industry. It is anticipated that freight trains will travel between Melbourne and Brisbane in under 24 hours. When completed, any accredited operator will be able to apply to operate trains services along the Inland Rail line. Although it is designed for freight services, passenger train operators may also seek permission to access the line.

 

The Australian Government committed $8.4 billion to Inland Rail in the 2017–18 budget. In January 2018 the first rails for the line were delivered for the Parkes to Narromine section. The rails are manufactured at Whyalla and welded into 165 metre lengths at Port Augusta, both in South Australia. Upgrading of the Parkes to Narromine line will be the first construction work of Inland Rail. Work is expected to commence in May.

 

Further information about Inland Rail, including maps, media releases, progress updates and videos can be found on the Inland Rail website <https://inlandrail.artc.com.au>.

 

References

Australian Rail Track Corporation, Inland rail: programme business case, Adelaide, 2015.

Australian Rail Track Corporation, Melbourne–Brisbane Inland Rail alignment study: Final report, Australian Rail Track Corporation, Adelaide, 2010.

Australian Rail Track Corporation, The case for inland rail, Adelaide, no date.

Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, Australian Government <https://infrastructure.gov.au>.

Inland Rail, Australian Rail Track Corporation <https://inlandrail.artc.com.au>.

‘Inland Rail’s first works: Parkes–Narromine upgrade starts with rail deliveries’, Railway Digest, vol. 56, no. 4, April 2018, pp. 28–9.

Junee railway station, New South Wales, 3 January 2018. Junee is in the Albury to Illabo section of Inland Rail, where existing tracks will be upgraded to increase the height clearance, thus enabling double-stacking of containers.

Double-stacked containers at Spencer Junction, near Port Augusta, South Australia, 16 July 2009. The Inland Rail line will provide capacity for double-stacked containers in areas where they are currently unable to operate because of loading gauge restrictions.