AUSTRALIA: The federal government has commissioned an economic feasibility study to develop an optimum alignment for an inland railway between Melbourne and Brisbane. Transport & Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese announced on March 28 that A$15m has been allocated for the study, which ARTC is to complete by August 2009.

At present the only north-south link is the coastal route via Sydney, which ARTC is currently upgrading (RG 12.07 p775). Albanese says an inland route via the Central West region of New South Wales could cut Melbourne - Brisbane journey times from 36 h to 21 h.

The study will build on earlier work, including the North-South Rail Corridor Study which identified a 'far western' corridor from Junee to Brisbane via Parkes, Dubbo, Moree and ?Goondiwindi. ARTC has been asked to determine the optimum alignment for a new line within this corridor, based on 'economic, engineering, statutory planning and environmental constraints' and to assess the likely costs for construction, operation and maintenance.

The work is to be undertaken in three phases: determination of the preferred route; engineering and environmental analysis; and development of the preferred alignment.

H On April 3 Australian Transport & Energy Corridor Ltd, the private consortium founded by entrepreneur Everald Compton, presented the state governments of Queensland and NSW with its business case for a 350 km standard gauge railway between Moree and Toowoomba. ATEC is seeking an exclusive mandate to build the A$900m Border Railway and an intermodal freight terminal at Toowoomba, 100 km inland from Brisbane.