We need answers on inland rail project

Inland rail remains an important issue for farmers across NSW – and the appointment of the third minister for infrastructure in as many months has given many farmers new hope that we may finally get the answers to the questions they still have about this project.

As readers will be aware, NSW Farmers’ is an active and passionate supporter of inland rail. But this is not a blank cheque, and members want to be sure that this investment is delivering the very best outcome for them, their businesses and their communities.

At two community meetings in Narromine and Coonamble last week, and this week at our NSW Farmers’ Dubbo branch meeting, the community shared its deep concern about the inland rail project. Top of mind are continuing concerns about land access, route selection, justification for the preferred route and advice about passing lanes, compensation and access for regionally-produced goods, like grain, onto the rail.

With too many questions left unanswered, community members at those meetings overwhelmingly endorsed NSW Farmers’ plans to negotiate a land access agreement template with the ARTC, and that they would individually refuse to sign any land access agreement until such time as the ARTC releases the data justifying their work to date.

I have written to the new Deputy Prime Minister and infrastructure minister, Michael McCormack, sharing our concerns. In that letter I advised him of the outcome of those community meetings and I also called for him to undertake an independent analysis of the work which has been used to determine the inland rail route.

Deputy Prime Minister McCormack will be responsible for delivering this important project. He has an obligation to taxpayers, and his rural constituents, to ensure transparency and adequate justification for this project. We look forward to his response.

- NSW Farmers’ president Derek Schoen