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Another review for Inland Rail as Nats have second thoughts

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After lobbying from federal Cabinet colleague David Littleproud, the Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack, has belatedly agreed to consider another route for the $10 billion Inland Rail project.

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The 1700km Inland Rail project, stretching from Victoria to Queensland, involves more than a dozen separate works, including a 6km tunnel through the Toowoomba range.

However, it is the proposed section from the NSW-Queensland border to Gowrie, across the Condamine flood plain, that has attracted the most attention. Construction was due to begin on that stretch next year.

After community meetings, parliamentary hearings and political pressure, McCormack this week asked the Australian Rail Track Corporation to review the alternate ‘Forestry Route’ and whether it would meet the business case requirements. Proponents argue it would be less likely to flood.

That is despite the ARTC having pushed ahead with the existing route, which is subject to a Queensland approval process that will assess its controversial flood mitigation components.

The Queensland government’s support to date has also been based on the existing route, suggesting that any last-minute change would send all stakeholders back to the drawing board and delay the project.

“This is a project proposed and led by the Australian Government, and they have initiated a review of the route through the ARTC,” said a spokesman for Queensland Transport Minister Mark Bailey.

“The current route is what has been agreed between the Australian and Queensland governments, and we will await the review’s findings.”

Littleproud, the agriculture minister, has demanded the route be changed, to alleviate the concerns of some landholders and avoid threatened legal action. However, the ARTC remains confident in the design, and flood modelling, for the existing route.

McCormack has previously defended the project, which has been described as nation-building infrastructure that will modernise freight handling and remove more trucks from roads.

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