‘Not economically viable’: Gladstone Inland Rail study
The potential development of coal fields to the west offers a glimmer of hope for the Inland Rail Gladstone link, but a study investigating the route is a significant setback.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said the route would run from Brisbane to Melbourne and cited a prefeasibility study that found the Gladstone option was not economically viable.
"The Inland Rail Gladstone Link Prefeasibility Study investigated two potential alignment options and found that an extension of Inland Rail to the Port of Gladstone would not be economically viable at this time as forecast demand for the connection is not sufficient to justify the capital cost," Mr McCormack said.
"The report recommended that should there be improved market demand in the future, further analysis to determine the need to link Inland Rail to Gladstone could be considered."
The study found a coastal route via Brisbane would cost an estimated $5 billion and an inland route via Toowoomba an estimated $3 billion.
Development of coal fields in the west was the strongest argument to pursue the Gladstone link.
"Were the price of coal to undergo a sustained increase, supporting the development of new mining operations, this would improve the economic case for an inland connection to Gladstone," the study said.
"If the supply chain to the Port of Brisbane were to become further constrained, following construction of Inland Rail and international demand for thermal coal were to increase sufficiently, then further analysis could be undertaken for the most efficient investment for rail access to areas of the Surat Basin."
Proponents for the Gladstone proposal have pointed to the port's capacity to handle more trade, as well as increased strain on Brisbane's train network.
Flynn MP Ken O'Dowd has been a long-time advocate for the Gladstone link and said he would continue to work with all levels of government as well as Regional Development Australia and Gladstone Port Authority.
"'I will continue to advocate for the Gladstone link of the Inland Rail project as the economic and social benefits are a tremendous benefit to our region," Mr O'Dowd said.