Australian Transport and Energy Corridor Ltd (ATEC), the infrastructure company founded by inland railway specialist Everald Compton, over a decade ago, has today submitted a business case to the Queensland and New South Governments for the building of the Border Railway linking Moree and Toowoomba.
Compton and ATEC have asked Anna Bligh and Morris Iemma to jointly grant to ATEC an unconditional exclusive mandate for the 350 kilometre track between Moree and Toowoomba, which would be built by 2014 as a standard gauge, open access track at a cost of $ 900 million.
Its construction will mean that there ultimately will be a standard gauge inland railway from the Port of Melbourne to the Port of Gladstone with a link to the Port of Newcastle.
ATEC has a successful history with unsolicited private/public mandates. ATEC controls a twenty per cent shareholding in Surat Basin Rail Pty Ltd, and was instrumental in achieving the 2006 landmark unsolicited and unconditional exclusive mandate from the Queensland Government to complete the Toowoomba to Gladstone Railway through the Surat Coal Basin. This was the first-ever unsolicited public/private partnership mandate awarded by the Queensland Government.
Everald Compton is chairman of Surat Basin Rail, which includes ATEC’s joint venture partners Xstrata Coal, Anglo Coal, Industry Funds Management and QR. The project is currently on schedule to be completed in 2013, one year ahead of the projected completion schedule for the Border Railway.
The Border Railway will be built as a greenfields project from Moree to North Star and Yetman, crossing the border at Yelarbon and going on to Inglewood, Millmerran and Pittsworth to Toowoomba where ATEC has purchased 155 hectares of land to establish a major state-of-the art intermodal freight centre at Charlton, just west of the city at the junction of the Border and Surat Basin Railways.
The business case for the Border Railway outlines the manner in which ATEC will establish and lead a consortium to carry out the mandate for construction. This will be completed and lodged by 31 May, 2008, and those companies seeking membership of the consortium will be subject to the approval of both the NSW and QLD Governments. ATEC’s consortium partners are likely to be a rail and an infrastructure company as well as a superannuation fund and ATEC says negotiations are already well advanced with parties in those fields who have already expressed genuine interest in the substantial project.
Compton has also just delivered the business case to the federal government, as the construction of the Border Railway will create a need to upgrade existing rail tracks south of Moree and undertake the construction of the Murrurundi Tunnel to give better access to the Port of Newcastle. This work is likely to become the responsibility of the Federally owned Australian Rail Track Corporation.
Compton’s business case submission to the NSW and QLD Governments complements infrastructure minister Anthony Albanese’s announcement last week of a $15m scoping study on a standard-gauge railway linking Melbourne and Brisbane.
Compton also announced two significant and strategic freight centres that will be fundamental to the success of the Border Railway: one in Charlton in Queensland and one near Parkes in NSW.
Last month, the ATEC Freight Terminals Trust received development approval for its Charlton Freight Terminal site, which will be a major storage and distribution centre for all of south eastern Queensland delivering freight directly to and from customers in Brisbane, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and Ipswich without double-handling and within a time span considerably shorter than that can be achieved on the coastal railway.
In anticipation of NSW rail upgrades being completed, the ATEC Freight Terminals Trust has also secured a strategically located and well-suited large area of land (in excess of 200 ha) for the creation of an intermodal freight terminal near Parkes in central NSW, where the inland railway will cross the Perth to Sydney railway. The ATEC Parkes freight terminal is set to be the largest freight terminal in Australia and is expected to be completed by 2014.
Everald Compton said: “The Border Railway should have been built a century ago. The failure to do so represents a classic example of the dreadful impact of non-planning, as the lack of a cross-border inland railway has seriously impeded the development of large inland cities and allowed the overdevelopment of cities such as Sydney and Brisbane to the detriment of the nation.
“The fact that the building of the Border Railway will allow freight trains to run between Melbourne, Gladstone and Newcastle will mean the development of new industries in inland Australia and bring populations from capital cities to service them. Albury, Wagga Wagga, Parkes, Dubbo, Moree, Toowoomba, Dalby and Biloela will become major inland cities.
“This project will take 1,000 trucks a day off the Newell Highway, saving millions of dollars in road maintenance and greatly improving the environment and efficiency in the logistics of large-scale freight movement,” continued Compton. “It will remove freight trains from the overcrowded suburbs of Sydney and foster the further expansion of the Port of Newcastle, further slowing Sydney’s abnormal growth,” he said.