Townsville Enterprise has protested a State Government move to defer work on the Townsville Eastern Access Rail Corridor (TEARC) and divert funding elsewhere.
“There is already a number of large-scale projects currently in the pipeline, dependent on the construction of the TEARC, with this decision now placing those projects and the potential jobs they would create in limbo,” Townsville Enterprise chief executive officer Patricia O’Callaghan said.
The move came after Building Queensland completed a Detailed Business Case on the TEARC project, finding that current demand did not support construction of the line at this time.
The government said it would move to ensure the long-term future of rail freight to the Port of Townsville by protecting the corridor.
But Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey called on the Turnbull Government to redirect funding from the TEARC to other key projects Townsville needs now, consistent with the Townsville City Deal.
“Such investment can help bring forward demand for TEARC and make it a reality sooner,” he said.
“In particular, we again call on the Turnbull Government to match our $75 million commitment to expanding the Port of Townsville (through the Channel Widening Project).”
TEARC is a proposed 8.3km rail freight line which would connect the North Coast line at Cluden directly to the port.
The proposed TEARC route would stretch from Cluden on the North Coast Line, through the Townsville State Development Area for about 3.5km, before joining the existing Eastern Access Corridor and running northward parallel to the Southern Port Road to the port.
Ms O’Callaghan said TEARC had been identified as a critical piece of infrastructure for north Queensland, with the Federal Government committing $150 million in grant funding towards the project – a key initiative in the Townsville City Deal.
The corridor would allow longer trains into the Port of Townsville, reduce bottlenecks and provide vital capacity for the growing tonnage demand on the Mount Isa to Townsville Rail Line, transforming the region, she said.
“It is disappointing, however, that once again North Queensland’s development has been put on hold, with the State Government today announcing it will not fund the balance of the TEARC project as it doesn’t stack at the moment,” she said.
She said the cost-benefit analysis had not included future projects, which would have resulted in a very different outcome.
“We are already experiencing considerable growth in the resources sector, but product from the North West Minerals Province is increasingly transported by road instead of rail, resulting in escalating inefficiencies in the logistical supply chain,” Ms O’Callaghan said.
“TEARC should not be considered in isolation, with both the State and Federal Government needing to look at the logistical corridor as a whole connection.
“We acknowledge the State Government’s $75 million commitment towards the Port’s Channel Widening project, but there must be investment into the railway as well.
“Townsville Enterprise encourages both governments to put party politics aside and work cooperatively to coordinate their respective funding commitments. While we acknowledge both commitments, we now need a collaborative review of this critical supply chain to protect and support the future economic development of our region.”