Inland Rail

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Freight connectivity between Melbourne and Brisbane.
Priority Project
Melbourne to Brisbane via inland NSW
National Connectivity
Problem/Opportunity timeframe
Medium term (5-10 years)
Proposed By
Australian Government
Evaluation Date
06 May 2016

Problem to be addressed

Demand for freight transport along the Melbourne to Brisbane corridor is expected to grow substantially over coming decades, from approximately 4.9 million tonnes in 2016 to around 13 million tonnes, or 1.1 million containers (twenty-foot equivalent units or TEUs), by 2050. This increased demand will require additional freight capacity in the corridor.

The current rail connection between Melbourne and Brisbane, via Sydney,  cannot offer the transit times and reliability required by industry. This is largely a function of poor rail alignments and capacity constraints, particularly on the section between Sydney and Brisbane, and delays on freight transiting the Sydney metropolitan area. The current road connection between Melbourne and Brisbane via inland New South Wales offers faster transit times than rail via Sydney. However, much of the road is two-lane single carriageway, with limited passing lanes. Without additional capacity, transit times on this corridor will increase as freight volumes rise.

Project description

The project involves developing a freight rail line of approximately 1,700 km  between Melbourne and Brisbane via inland Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. Around 40% of the proposed route would be constructed as new railway, or converted from narrow gauge to dual gauge in Queensland. Existing narrow gauge connections between Brisbane and regional centres would be maintained. The remainder of the route would utilise and, where necessary, upgrade existing standard gauge track in Victoria and New South Wales.

The project will be delivered to achieve  the service specification of a less than  24-hour transit time between Melbourne and Brisbane for the benchmark train, being a 21 tonne axle load, 115 km/h double-stacked and up to 1,800 m long train.

Trains operating the service would have capacity to carry up to 485 containers (TEUs) when capacity for longer 3,600 m, double-stacked trains is introduced over time.

Economic, social and environmental value

Key benefits of the proposed project include improved productivity, improved network efficiency and reliability, shorter transit times, safety improvements, sustainability benefits and reduced lifecycle costs.
The proponent’s stated benefit–cost ratio is 1.1 (7% real discount rate).

Capital cost of initiative as stated by proponent (2016 business case) $9.89 billion (P50, nominal, undiscounted) | Australian Government contribution $9.3 billion (including pre-construction and corridor acquisition costs of $893.7 million) | State government contribution To be determined | Private sector contribution To be determined.