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Over 460 delegates participated in the 2019 Inland Rail Conference in Toowoomba on 21-22 August 2019, presented by the Australian Logistics Council (ALC) and Australasian Railway Association (ARA).

Participants explored multiple facets of this nationally-significant freight infrastructure project and set out the actions needed to ensure local communities, consumers, producers, freight operators and the Australian economy derive the full benefits of Inland Rail, both during the construction phase and once it is operational.

The Inland Rail project, a 1,700km railway line directly linking Brisbane to Melbourne will transform Australia’s freight networks, enhancing supply chain efficiency and safety, boosting the nation’s export competitiveness and unlocking regional development and employment opportunities for local communities.

The conference identified a number of key themes and priority actions that governments and industry must now work collaboratively to pursue:

  • Interconnectivity is everything. While Inland Rail will play a critical role as a ‘spine’ in our freight network, it will ultimately rely on connections to other key freight infrastructure, including intermodal hubs and ports.
  • Collaboration between governments is essential. Governments at all levels right along the alignment need to be working together. This will ensure landholders and communities are supported during planning and to share in the benefits of Inland Rail as soon as possible. Delegates urged the Queensland government and the Commonwealth to sign the Intergovernmental Agreement that will allow construction work in Queensland to begin.
  • Port connectivity is critical. Separation of passenger and freight rail in our cities is critical for our supply chain efficiency. The release of the joint study undertaken by the Commonwealth and Queensland governments into freight rail links between the Acacia Ridge and the Port of Brisbane should be expedited.
  • Getting the balance right. To maximise the benefits of Inland Rail, complementary investment and regulatory reform is required across four key critical areas; road pricing; data capture and sharing; achieving the right modal balance across modes and getting terminals right.
  • Meeting customers’ Demands. Customers’ targets for the Inland Rail Project include reliability of service, improved connectivity, sustainability of freight services, express capability under 24 hours and seamless last mile arrangements.
  • Community engagement is crucial. By proactively working with local communities, sourcing local materials and using local contractors to support delivery of the project, Inland Rail will deliver an economic boost to regional communities, during and beyond its construction phase. Genuine, open and honest consultation with land owners must continue to occur to ensure affected landowners have opportunities to provide input on the route alignment.
  • Inland Rail will diversify regional workforces. Through initiatives such as the Inland Rail Skills Academy, the construction of Inland Rail will provide regional workforces with the skills needed to maintain and oversee the operation of Australia’s modern rail freight network into the future.
  • Advantages of Inland Rail for urban communities should be highlighted. The project will help improve the environmental performance of the freight sector by lowering emissions, will make it easier to get fresh produce to urban markets and will help to address road and rail congestion for urban residents. It is important to recognise that the benefits of Inland Rail extend beyond regional communities.
  • Data capture allows for more effective investment decisions. Industry participants across all modes of freight transport should actively support initiatives like the National Freight Data Hub, so that supply chain performance can be monitored and measured.
  • Inland Rail aligns with actions outlined in the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy. As states along the alignment publish implementation plans for the Strategy, they must set out how new freight infrastructure will connect with Inland Rail, and indicate deadlines for the competition of such infrastructure.
  • New freight precincts must incorporate viable rail links. The National Planning Principles, which the Commonwealth has agreed to develop as part of the Strategy, should require new intermodals and freight precincts to demonstrate how they will link with relevant rail infrastructure, including Inland Rail.

The 2020 Inland Rail Conference will be held in Albury Wodonga, with the two day conference to incorporate visits to Albury’s Nexus Industrial Precinct and Wodonga’s Logic Centre.