By Jeremy Sollars
BREAKING: Warwick will predictably be bypassed by the Melbourne to Brisbane inland railway, with the final route announced today by the Federal Government.
As was expected – and more than likely decided on by the government a year or more ago – the line will run through Millmerran and across the Condamine River floodplain and on to Toowoomba, including Wellcamp Airport.
This is despite warnings from farmers about the fragmentation of prime agricultural land and devastating future flooding resulting from the building of massive embankments to carry the line over the floodplain.
Federal Infrastructure Minister Darren Chester has written to residents informing them of his decision, which he officially announced in Toowoomba today, Thursday 21 September.
An announcement had been expected earlier this year, but landholder concerns prompted a Federal Government ‘review’ of the Millmerran and other proposed routes.
But many believe the review was merely window-dressing and the Millmerran route – preferred since 2010 by project driver the Australian Rail Track Corporation – was always going to happen, even though their original route bypassed Wellcamp Airport.
Airport owners the Wagner family had promised to invest millions to create a road-rail-air transport hub geared towards food and agricultural produce if the rail corridor was shifted closer to their airport, which it now has been.
Mr Chester has said the relative cost and transit time were factors in making the decision, but he acknowledged “this decision will be disappointing for some” and “has not been taken lightly”.
“While cost is not the overriding factor in decision-making for the preferred alignment, the Wellcamp-Charlton option has the lowest incremental cost,” Mr Chester said.
“It also offers the shortest transit time.”
Warwick’s inland rail proponents had favoured a loop on existing lines from Inglewood to the east through Karara to just north of Warwick – in the Toolburra Plains area between Warwick and Allora – rather than the Millmerran option.
They also argued taking the route this way would enable the existing line north of Warwick and through Clifton, Greenmount, Cambooya and Wyreema to be extended to take in Wellcamp Airport and then on to Gowrie.
Comment on the announcement is being sought from the Southern Downs Regional Council.