AUSTRALIAN Transport Minister John Anderson announced on July 15 that he had approved an A$5m feasibility study into the construction of a 1800 km high-capacity rail freight link between Melbourne and Brisbane. Promoted by the private sector, the Australian Transport & Energy Corridor is costed at A$1·4bn; Macquarie Bank announced recently that it had agreed to provide financial backing for the scheme.

The route would make use of existing lines across Victoria and New South Wales, via Albury, Wagga Wagga, and Parkes, together with construction of a new standard-gauge link in Queensland from Goondiwindi to Toowoomba and Brisbane. ATEC Chairman Everald Compton expects to complete the study within three or four months. He hopes to start construction early in 2001 and have the line completed in three years.

In the longer term, ATEC hopes to continue the corridor a further 2200 km across western Queensland to Darwin, competing with the Alice Springs - Darwin route on which the Asia Pacific Transport Consortium expects to start construction in October.

  • Next month is due to see completion of a study into the costs and benefits of converting Victoria’s residual freight network from broad to standard gauge. The state Department of Infrastructure commissioned the study from Connell Wagner last month. Early estimates suggest that regauging the 2320route-km would cost around A$180m, but could generate economic benefits totalling up to A$40m a year.