Attendees at the 2018 Inland Rail Conference in Parkes this week were told the future prosperity of Australia is reliant on the success of the project.
Speaking at Wednesday’s Inland Rail Conference in Parkes Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Rail Track Corporation John Fullerton said the project is about “the future prosperity of the country”.
“It’s about equipping Australia with the core infrastructure it will need for the next 50 to 100 years,” Mr Fullerton said.
Welcoming a shift in sentiment from governments towards rail infrastructure Mr Fullerton said: “The warning bells have been ringing, driven by a number of factors such as population growth, road congestion, safety and environmental considerations and the emerging imperative to build efficient supply chains to build a more productive Australia”.
According to Mr Fullerton the Inland Rail project will provide infrastructure that is needed to provide the freight pathways for supply chains of the future to move the goods that Australia consumes and export.
“It’s a very rare project, it not only provide a clear national benefit, but regional benefits, including to many of the traditional owners of the land,” Mr Fullerton told attendees at the conference held at the Parkes Leagues Club.
Reflecting on the history of rail in Australia Mr Fullerton described it as having a “dis-functional” and “inefficient” past which saw different gauges between states which saw locomotives and train crews changed at the state borders.
“The concept of rail and the supply chain were counter intuitive,” Mr Fullerton said.
“It shouldn’t surprise any of us that interstate trucking companies flourished in that time.
“It is the reason we have today one of the most efficient trucking operations in the world, and we should be proud of it.
“The consequence of this is that freight movement on the eastern coast of Australia is at levels that are unsustainable in a growing Australia.
“We have been totally blind that there was even a problem and what the consequences were if it wasn’t fixed.
“That said the importance of rail to Australia in terms of freight and commuters is getting much more support.
“This is a belated but welcome shift,” Mr Fullerton said.
However he added more work needs to be done to give Australia a rail system for the next 100 years.
“ARTC was established in 1988 with a mandate to increase the volume of freight carried on the network,” he said.
“In line with that mandate our sole purpose is to improve Australia’s productivity by making rail the mode of choice in the national logistics chain.
“Rail needs to become more embedded in our national supply chains.
“It’s why Inland Rail is so important.
“Inland Rail will re-balance the mode of share between road and rail to optimal levels akin to best practice elsewhere.
“With Inland Rail Australia will have completed a key missing link with a transport backbone linking every state with a world class system securing future generations wealth,” Mr Fullerton said.