Southern Downs Regional Council mayor Tracy Dobie at the rail tracks at Thulimbah. Cr Dobie wants the proposed inland rail route to be reconsidered.
Southern Downs Regional Council mayor Tracy Dobie at the rail tracks at Thulimbah. Cr Dobie wants the proposed inland rail route to be reconsidered. Liana Turner

Politicians debate rail route

WE NEED inland rail, but we need to do it right.

That's the message from member for the Southern Downs Lawrence Springborg and Southern Downs mayor Tracy Dobie.

Mr Springborg last week tabled a 2015 report by the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation, which highlighted concerns with the proposed route and favoured a line through the Southern Downs from Inglewood via Karara and Leyburn to Toowoomba, to state parliament.

He said a review into the proposed route was needed.

Mr Springborg said he supported the inland rail idea "100 per cent”, but believed the ARTC had not investigation all options appropriately.

"There's been very limited, if any, transparency with that they've come up with,” he said.

"What we need now is... a review of the way that it's been done and we also need... an open process. That has not happened to date.

"For a $10 billion project that's going to take 10 years, we need to make sure that we do it right.”

Cr Dobie said the proposed line was "not the optimum route”.

"Our region has effectively been frozen out of discussions about the Inland Rail,” Cr Dobie said.

"The ARTC has chosen to ignore us, and it's astonishing that they have said they were aware of the 2015 SMEC report, but that the alternative didn't demonstrate any advantage.

"Instead they're choosing to continue pushing for a route option from a report prepared five years earlier in 2010.

"The SMEC report, which favours a route through the Southern Downs, is evidence that there is significant merit associated with using an existing rail corridor.

"Surely it makes sense to use an existing line, particularly when the development costs stand to be far less than building 100 kilometres of new track.”

Cr Dobie questioned building a new line across a "fertile agricultural flood plain” in Millmerran.

"Southern Downs Regional Council proposes that the inland rail uses the existing line,” Cr Dobie said.

"The existing line from Warwick to Toowoomba is becoming more important to the Southern Downs region as the delivery of our produce becomes more time-critical and we use containers to move that produce.

"Toowoomba is developing into a large logistics hub and it's important that Southern Downs is synchronised with Toowoomba.

"However, at the core of this issue is the lack of transparency around the consultation processes, and the ARTC now needs to step up to the plate.

"Above all, it's clear that the options must be revisited in an open and transparent way that engages all stakeholders.”

An ARTC spokesman said the route through Inglewood and Gowrie was preferred in its 2010 study because it allowed for shorter journey times, reduced costs and allowed for greater freight volumes.

"We understand the community needs to have confidence in the final alignment and we want to be able to provide the community with clear and comparable findings from the assessment of the preferred alignment compared to others,” he said.