The Inland Rail project is set to revolutionise freight transit throughout regional Australia, and there is the potential for some favourable impacts on the Central West market.
The 1700 kilometre rail line is currently under construction, and once completed in 2024-25, it will provide a more direct and reliable route for freight between Brisbane and Melbourne.
Two major hubs for the project will be situated in Parkes and Narromine, offering greater opportunity for freight haulage in the Central West.
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In Bathurst’s case, however, the Inland Rail project could allow for greater access to Port Botany, Sydney’s premier trade terminal, where local business Grainforce has been sending grain freight for the past five years.
“There are interstate trains that head from Melbourne to Brisbane via Sydney, and the Inland Rail project could help free up space for our goods,” Grainforce managing director Derek Larnach said.
Grainforce entered a partnership with Southern Shorthaul Rail five years ago, which has seen the grain trade between Bathurst and Sydney thrive.
“We’ve sent over 760 trains to Sydney and in the last financial year, we took over 10,000 trucks off the road,” Mr Larnach said.
“Five years is the longest the rail teminal has ever stayed open in Bathurst.”
With Parkes set to be Bathurst’s closest access point to the proposed Inland Rail network, Mr Larnach said that the project would have no direct impact on their business.
“We’ll continue to focus on Sydney, because we can run a shuttle service there 24 hours a day,” he said.
“It doesn’t really make sense to send freight nearly as far to Parkes, and then off to Brisbane or Melbourne.”
Bathurst currently has zero rail freight operations to Parkes, and Mr Larnarch said there would need to be a viable exportable product for that to change.
“As far as I’m concerned, the Inland Rail project will have greater implications on the north and south of the state then it will in the Central West,” he said.
“There’s 5 million people in Sydney and 3 million throughout the rest of the state, and with Bathurst’s close access to Sydney, our focus for freight operations is a no-brainer.”
In January 2018, the Federal Government projected that the Inland Rail project would boost the Central West’s economy by $480 million.