Farming and logistics advocates have warmly welcomed an $8.4 billion commitment to build the Inland Rail project through regional Queensland, NSW and Victoria.
Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison handed down the FY18 Federal Budget in Canberra on Tuesday night, unveiling with it a $75 billion infrastructure program, which includes money for roads, urban rail, and a new airport in Western Sydney.
But the centrepiece of the program is the massive splash of funding for Inland Rail, the proposed link between Brisbane and Melbourne, via south-east Queensland, central NSW and Victoria.
Inland Rail would cut out the Sydney bottleneck for freight travelling between the two cities, and would also provide farmers with more efficient access to coastal and export markets.
Morrison called the $8.4 billion commitment “one of the biggest investments ever seen in regional Australia”.
The investment is spread out over the next seven financial years, and will go to the Australian Rail Track Corporation, in charge of delivering the project.
“Construction on this 1700-kilometre project will begin in 2017-18 and will support 16,000 jobs at the peak of construction,” the treasurer said.
“It will benefit not just Melbourne and Brisbane, but all the regions along its route.”
The Inland Rail funding was welcomed whole-heartedly by industry, with the National Farmers’ Federation, the Australian Logistics Council and the Australasian Railway Association among those singing its praises.
NFF president Fiona Simson said Inland Rail was the “crown jewel” of the Budget for farmers.
“This is a significant investment in the efficiency of our industry, better connecting our farms with new markets here and overseas,” Simson said.
ARA boss Danny Broad also praised the funding.
“Inland rail is fundamental to boosting rail freight efficiency in Australia, and given Australia’s freight task will grow 26% by 2026, its delivery is important to all Australians,” Broad said.
Australian Logistics Council managing director Michael Kilgariff called the project “transformative”.
“The $8.4 billion commitment announced in the Treasurer’s speech tonight will finally allow its construction,” Kilgariff said.
“At long last, we can stop merely talking about this project’s potential, and instead begin to witness it.”