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Inland rail visionary slams what his project has become

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The original architect of Australia’s Inland Rail project has slammed the Morrison government’s handling of the venture, saying it was now “the most disastrous infrastructure project in the history of Australia”.

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Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack last week announced a raft of design changes – including an additional 6.8km of bridges, following various debates and reviews in recent years – costing taxpayers an additional $5.5 billion.

Environment impact statements for four aspects of the Queensland stretch of rail are still to be released in the coming months, and planning work continues. The project will cost taxpayers significantly more than its original estimate of $10 billion.

But Everald Compton, AM, who first promoted the project nearly 25 years ago,  said there was still no plan to connect the ports of Melbourne and Brisbane, only freight centres nearby, and it should instead be re-routed via Toowoomba to Gladstone to improve trade links.

He said rural landowners had been affected by the ongoing uncertainty and the Australian Rail Track Corporation had failed to deliver the benefits that governments had long promised.

“When I launched the Inland Railway in 1996 as a national project to develop rural industries and communities across the nation, I held 53 public meetings along the route,” Compton said.

“They were packed out with people who were filled with hope for the future. Their vision has been shattered by ARTC. It is a disgrace for which those involved must be held personally accountable.”

While the ARTC welcomed the changes, McCormack said the government had responded to community concerns.

“Australian communities and industries have asked for more from this national infrastructure project and we have listened,” McCormack said.

“These enhancements to the Inland Rail network will deliver more contracts for local businesses and more work for Australians at a time when we need them most.”

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