The Liberal and Nationals Government is rolling out a $44 million program and enhancing its network of offices in the bush to support regional communities and industry to better connect to Inland Rail and the benefits that flow from fast, reliable and cost-competitive freight rail.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, Michael McCormack, said the Inland Rail Interface Improvement Program (II Program) would create productive rail-based supply chains at regional centres and build capacity on key country rail lines to enhance regional connectivity.
“The freight and logistics sector is incredibly important to a vast nation like ours. Each year billions of tonnes of goods are transported thousands of kilometres across Australia and that comes at a cost to everyone. It’s vitally important we invest in infrastructure, such as Inland Rail, to reduce costs and meet the growing freight task,” Mr McCormack said.
“We’re serious about helping regional supply chains reduce their costs to connect to new markets and the opportunities that Inland Rail provides. It is truly the backbone of the national freight network.
“To support new connections, we’ve allocated $24 million to assess the costs and benefits of proposed improvements to country lines that intersect with Inland Rail and a further $20 million for business cases looking at ways to enhance supply chain productivity,” Mr McCormack said.
Over the coming months, the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development will engage state and local governments, community, track operators and supply chain managers to canvass ideas and identify industry preferences for projects funded for consideration under the II Program.
Projects brought forward through the II Program will be assessed against a range of criteria and considered in light of their contribution to regional economic growth, capacity to encourage a modal shift to Inland Rail and ability to drive national freight and supply chain priorities.
Minister for Regional Services, Decentralisation and Local Government Mark Coulton said the ongoing engagement with regional communities and industry would be a vital input to the program and welcomed the Department’s expanding regional presence, with offices now located in Dubbo, Toowoomba, Wodonga and shortly Moree.
“These departmental staff, living and working in our regions, provide a way for local people to talk to the Australian Government face-to-face about the suite of opportunities and benefits that Inland Rail will deliver,” Mr Coulton said.
“These local connections are especially important as we deliver the $44 million Interface Improvement Program over the next two years. The II Program is one of many pathways for communities, industry and local government to drive further freight and agriculture productivity from Inland Rail and put the case forward for connecting their region.”
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, said the Inland Rail Interface Improvement Program would help drive significant improvements in productivity, building a stronger economy creating more jobs, leveraging our $9.3 billion federal investment in Inland Rail.
“The cost of freight is a significant part of the cost of doing business for Australian exporters. We’re committed to improving efficiencies in supply chains to help push costs down and support industry market access here and internationally.
“Through the Inland Rail Interface Improvement Program, we are driving further improvements in freight and supply chain infrastructure on the basis of appropriately prioritised market identified investments,” Senator Cormann said.
Further information, including advice on how to access opportunities under the Inland Rail Interface Improvement Program, is available from www.inlandrail.gov.au