Steel rail has been delivered for the Parkes to Narromine section of the Inland Rail project, with construction work likely to commence in coming months.
Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce’s first media statement as transport and infrastructure minister announced the arrival of the steel rail to the project on January 15.
The rail is the first to be delivered for Inland Rail from Liberty OneSteel’s Whyalla steelworks in South Australia.
Joyce, in his capacity as Nationals leader, named himself the new minister of transport and infrastructure as part of the Turnbull Cabinet reshuffle in December. He replaced fellow National Darren Chester.
Chester, the transport and infrastructure minister since February 2016, expressed his disappointment to the media, and turned down the option of an assistant minister role in the new Cabinet.
Joyce visited the Inland Rail worksite this week, flanked by finance minister Mathias Cormann, member for Parkes Mark Coulton, and member for Riverina Michael McCormack.
The Nationals leader called the project a “game-changer” for regional Australia, due to its potential for job creation and expected returns for the economy.
“It will improve travel times for local farmers and producers, reduce the number of heavy vehicles travelling through small towns, and slash business costs for freight operators,” he said.
“The Turnbull-Joyce Government is getting on with delivering this project, and today we have seen the first of 14,000 tonnes of steel to be delivered just for the Parkes to Narromine section. We’re still on track for works to begin in May this year, and it’s great to see this project take shape.”
Each metre of rail consists of 60 kilograms of steel, which will accommodate the 1.8-kilometre double-stack freight trains with a 21-tonne axle load that will travel along the Inland Rail at 115 kilometres per hour.
McCormack said the steel delivery was an example of the opportunities the project was opening-up to regional communities.
“We are already reaping the benefits with Australian produced steel being supplied by Liberty OneSteel Whyalla Steelworks for this project which is great for the economy and securing Australian jobs,” he said.
The 106-kilometre Parkes-Narromine section is to utilise existing ARTC operated track, which will undergo extensive upgrades, including the replacement of bridges and culverts, enhanced level-crossings and three new crossing loops at Goonumbla, Peak Hill, and Timjelly. 5km of new rail connection will be constructed at Parkes.
Cormann said that the project would be the “catalyst” for further economic benefits, and that businesses were already looking to take advantage of the improved efficiency and lower transport costs that are expected to be delivered by Inland Rail.
“What’s more, the reduction of heavy vehicles on the local road network will improve road safety, which remains a key issue for regional Australia,” Cormann said.
Additional reporting from David Loneragan.