Fast-tracking private investment for improving existing freight and infrastructure corridors

The state election is set to be held on Saturday, determining if we’ll see Labor continue to run the state, or a return to an LNP government.

TSBE works with all sides of politics and we’re looking forward to getting on with the job of building the region and linking business with opportunity.

It’s imperative that regardless of who takes the helm, that the party focus on fast-tracking private investment into improving and expanding existing freight and infrastructure corridors throughout the resource-rich Surat Basin.

Years of limited investment in rail infrastructure, plus an increase in freight volumes means we urgently need significant investment in the freight railways for minerals, agriculture and commodity exporters in the region.

In addition, the region is seeing improved mining conditions, and as we learnt from prior mining and agricultural turnarounds, it’s all too late and gets too expensive to try and improve freight infrastructure when users need it most.

Recently we’ve seen the State Government grant mining leases to Glencore for its proposed coal mine at Wandoan. Yancoal has also continued to operate its Cameby Downs mine at record rates.

We need a firm commitment from the state to work with private enterprise to fast-track investment into the region’s rail corridors to enhance the export capacity of the network.

The government’s Market Led Proposal (MLP) framework has the endorsement of both sides of government.  Projects like the one proposed by ATEC Rail Group (ARG) should now be a priority for the next government.

Having already invested significantly in the Surat Basin, ARG is positioned to deliver this MLP, which proposes to invest more than $250 million into expanding open access freight rail corridors west of Toowoomba.

ARG’s MLP offers an improved transport solution for minerals, agriculture and commodity exporters in the Surat by upgrading rail infrastructure, improving existing freight bottlenecks, and getting freight off our roads and onto rail.

These types of projects, where proponents have already shown the strength of their support of this region through significant investment, should be at the top of the “to do” list for our government.

I encourage the Queensland Government to hasten investment discussions with private investors, so that infrastructure investment in freight corridors starts happening, and local mining, agriculture and commodity exporters can future-proof their operations, and most importantly, provide jobs for the region.

This project has been on the agenda for some time.  Enough is enough – let’s get on with it.

Column by Shane Charles first appeared in November issue of Surat Basin News