Inland Railway

Inland Railway

The Australian Inland Railway is a proposed railway extending in a north-south direction across the continent from Melbourne to Darwin along a route in mostly flat terrain west of the mountainous Great Dividing Range. The Inland Railway is the "obvious" way of building a rail network to serve the fertile eastern part of the continent, assuming that either a uniform political control of railway building exists or third party railways are allowed to build unhindered across state borders. The main proponent of the railway line is Everald Compton, through the company Australian Transport and Energy Corridor Ltd (ATEC). Australian Inland Rail Expressway - Status Report, April 2008]


The line would be standard gauge, except where it shares the alignment with the narrow gauge of Queensland, in which case the track would be dual gauge. Isolated sections of the line would be built with dual gauge sleepers to facilitate a change of gauge or conversion to dual gauge at a later date.

As well as providing for general freight and passenger trains, the line would open up coal and mineral deposits across Queensland which need access to heavy duty ports such as at Gladstone.

The Australian Rail Track Corporation and ATEC are equal partners in a joint venture company called Australian Inland Railway Expressway Pty Ltd (AIRE), which was established to develop the railway line between Victoria and Queensland.


The proposal is not intended to be constructed by just one company or government. Instead, each sector is intended to be planned and developed separately, with each having to be economically feasible in its own right. Some sectors could not be feasible without others already being in place.

Several connections are intended to be provided across the Great Dividing Range between the inland route and coastal cities and ports, such as Sydney via Goulburn, Newcastle via Ulan or Werris Creek, Brisbane, Gladstone, Rockhampton and Cairns.

Toowoomba to Gladstone

Originally called the Dawson Valley Rail Link, the first sector will be the 210km Surat Basin railway line between Wandoan and Banana, which is planned to have its detailed route planning and financing completed by the end of 2009 and to be operational in 2012. [ Surat Basin Rail web site] This line, in conjunction with upgrading of existing lines, will provide a direct link between Toowoomba and Gladstone. The company involved in building that line, Surat Basin Rail Joint Venture, is a joint venture involving ATEC, Industry Funds Management, Anglo Coal, Xstrata Coal and Queensland Rail. It has been granted an "unconditional exclusive mandate" to construct and operate that line as an open access private railway.

This line will initially be built in narrow gauge and without overhead electrification but will be designed to provide for future conversion to dual gauge and electrification. [ Surat Basin Rail - Newsletter 2, August 2008]

Toowoomba to Moree

Moree is the current terminus point for passenger rail services on the Mungindi railway line. Beyond Moree, only wheat trains operate on a branch line to North Star, near the Queensland border. That line previously extended to Boggabilla, which is only a few kilometres from Goondiwindi in Queensland. While Goondiwindi is on a narrow gauge line that connects to Toowoomba via Warwick, these New South Wales and Queensland lines never met.

In April 2008, ATEC announced that it is seeking an unconditional exclusive mandate from the Queensland and New South Wales governments to build a new 350km standard gauge rail line between Moree and Toowoomba. [ ATEC media release 2 April 2008] ] The proposed route of that line would pass through North Star, turn east on a completely new alignment to Yetman in New South Wales, then north to Yelarbon in Queensland. From there, it would go to Inglewood, then turn north to Millmerran, then through Pittsworth to Toowoomba. While existing narrow gauge lines exist between Yelarbon and Inglewood and between Millmerran and Toowoomba, it is unclear whether it is proposed to use these lines.

Under the proposal, this line would be completed in 2014. It is estimated that the completion of this line has the potential to reduce the number of trucks traveling along the Newell Highway by 1000 per day.

Melbourne to Moree

Between Melbourne and Moree, a series of existing railway lines of varying condition and load capacity could provide a connection. The federal government announced a detailed study into the the line between Melbourne and Brisbane in May 2008. [ Federal minister's announcement of study] ] That study is expected to select the most viable route. In particular, a decision has to be made between taking the inland railway line through Albury or Shepparton. [ [ Daily Advertiser - Economics will decide whether via Albury or via Shepparton] ] Some completely new sections of line are expected to be developed, while other existing lines will be upgraded or completely rebuilt.

Toowoomba to Brisbane

Toowoomba lies at an elevation of 700m (not particularly high in world terms), but difficulties in climbing the range from Brisbane at reasonable cost was the prime cause of the choice of narrow gauge railways in Queensland, and the subsequent break of gauge problems that this caused at the New South Wales border. Route planning for this section is part of the federal government funded study.

Banana to Bowen via Emerald

A line has been proposed to connect the "Bowen basin" and Surat basin coal mining regions, providing mines in those areas with access to 4 ports. The line would connect to the Surat Basin railway line at Banana, extend northwest to Emerald then north to Bowen.

Mount Isa to Bowen

A line has been proposed to connect the "North West Minerals Province" around Mount Isa to Bowen.

Mount Isa to Darwin

This sector is proposed to be built between Mount Isa and Tennant Creek, where it would join the Adelaide-Darwin railway to Darwin.

In 2005, a study found that this line was not viable at that time. In July 2008, it was announced that ATEC is again carrying out a study to investigate the viability of constructing this line because two new iron ore mines are being developed north west of Mount Isa and the recently elected Mount Isa council have shown renewed interest in the project. [ [ Looking at economic feasibility of line from Mt Isa to Darwin] ]

Freight Depots

A road-rail trans-shipment hub in Charlton, west of Toowoomba, was granted development approval in March 2008.


External links

* John Andersons speech in 2001 about the project
* John Howards speech in 1998 about the proposal
* [ ARTC report]
* [ Support growing Sep 2006]

See also

* Rail transport in Australia

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