THE Inland Rail will change the region – it will bring jobs, boost the economy and give business owners far greater options than ever before, the experts say.
Just a couple of weeks ago the first sod was turned on the very first section of the Inland Rail and it happened in Parkes.
The Inland Rail is a 1700 kilometre freight rail network that will run from Melbourne to Brisbane, via Parkes, and promises a transit time of less than 24 hours.
In the Central West, the train will pass through Parkes and Narromine.
The project is due for competition in 2024-25.
Construction on the Parkes to Narromine section will include a 98km rail upgrade along with 5kms of new track.
While the Narromine to Narrabri works include around 300km of new track.
In Parkes there is already a host of Inland Rail workers and sub contractors and Parkes Shire Council general manager Kent Boyd said they are living and spending their pay packets in town.
We are starting to see really tangible impacts in our community.- Parkes Shire Council general manager Kent Boyd
“It’s real money and we are starting to see really tangible impacts in our community,” he said.
Data from Inland Rail shows this project will create around 16,000 jobs at the peak of construction, with an additional 700 on-going jobs once the network is operational.
Mr Boyd said while the jobs will be fantastic for areas around the rail network, once finished the transport link will give businesses opportunities they have never had before.
“People are thinking ‘what does this mean and how can I take advantage of it’,” he said.
READ MORE: What is the Inland Rail Hub in Parkes?
“If you’ve got highly efficient access to ports [in Brisbane and Melbourne] it’ll give you better access to the emerging Asian markets.”
“It’s a Melbourne to Brisbane line that can be done in less than 24 hours so it’s comparable to road freight, but rail is significantly less cost than via road. Ten trucks will go on a single train.”
Businesses doing business better
The Dubbo region will be well placed to get the benefits of the Inland Rail, the city’s mayor Ben Shields said.
“When it comes to our existing agriculture and industrial base we’ll be able to take advantage of the Inland Rail,” he said.
“We’ve had difficulty with things getting to port over the past 100 years.”
If our farms and our agriculture centres are more competitive it’ll grow those businesses.- Dubbo Regional Council mayor Ben Shields
Cr Shields said having quick and easy access to this new rail link would ensure that Dubbo region businesses become more competitive on a national and global scale.
“If our farms and our agriculture centres are more competitive it’ll grow those businesses,” he said.
Cr Shields said the creation of the Inland Rail, along with increasing passenger numbers at Dubbo Airport and the XPT will help strengthen the city’s reputation as a transport hub for regional NSW.
He said the rail link will also mean there will be less trucks on the region’s roads.
“I don’t believe there is any downside to having this,” Cr Shields said.
Too early to tell all the benefits
WITH the first train not expected to run until 2024-25, Western NSW Business Chamber regional manager Vicki Seccombe said it was too early to imagine the full impacts of the project.
“There’s still a lot of unknowns,” she said.
“We still need to understand the potential of how we can use the Inland Rail.”
Ms Seccombe said, however, that some areas in the Central West would benefit more than others.
“Parkes and surrounding areas will probably benefit the most, especially with the Parkes Logistics Hub,” she said.
The Hub is a greenfield development by Parkes Shire Council that aims to attract importers, exporters and manufacturers to set up in the region.
“The Hub will be job-creating and I think that will flow on into the region,” Ms Seccombe said.
We still need to understand the potential of how we can use the Inland Rail.- Western NSW Business Chamber regional manager Vicki Seccombe
“Parkes is the epicentre really, and with the investment into that area and jobs, there’s the potential of needing more housing.”
Ms Seccombe said at this early stage of the Inland Rail’s development, she believed larger freight or agricultural produce companies may benefit more than smaller ones.
“We really believe that the Inland Rail will have a positive impact and contribution to our region,” she said.
“It will more effectively send stuff into the Brisbane or Melbourne ports and that really hasn’t been an easy task.”
Look long term for rail benefits
While jobs is an obvious boost for the Central West during construction and then ongoing operations of the Inland Rail there will also be other benefits, Regional Development Australia Orana director Megan Dixon says.
There will also be an opportunity for government and businesses to work together.
“We’re working with local governments to capitalise on the long term opportunities in terms of freight,” she said.
Another benefit would be a reduced number of trucks on the roads and highways across the region, especially on the Newell Highway.
“It may have an impact [on the number of trucks], but that said, road transport is very important to use, especially the door-to-door transport,” she said.
It’s important that we work to take advantage of this infrastructure and investment in the region.- Regional Development Australia Orana director Megan Dixon
Ms Dixon said road transport would always have a role in Australia, but that the Inland Rail might be used instead for products going to export.
Ms Dixon said while freight capacity on rail would grow significantly once the project was completed, exactly what freight was put on the Inland Rail would depend on a number of factors.
“It depends on what freight has been produced for and what state it’s going to and who the market is,” she said.
Ms Dixon said the Inland Rail was a nation-building project and incredibly important, not only to areas around Parkes and Narromine, but to the entire Centre West.
“It’s important that we work to take advantage of this infrastructure and investment in the region,” she said.
Ms Dixon said the very creation of the rail network also put Australia on the map for its capability to deliver freight quickly across the country and to ports in Melbourne and Brisbane.
“The publicity that it brings to the area in terms that it’s a significant project and the attention that it’s getting nationally and internationally is a good thing,” she said.
Around 1200kms of existing rail infrastructure (rail lines and corridors) will be used to complete the 1700km Inland Rail to ensure the best possible use of previous investments in the national rail freight network.