Transcript: Warren Truss Chair of the Australian Rail Track Corporation: Address to the Inland Rail Sod Turn at Parkes

Well it’s an absolute pleasure to be here today to celebrate the commencement of construction of the Inland Rail. A project that in one form or another has been on the drawing board for more than a century.

December 13, 2018

ARTC Chairman Warren Truss

Introduction by John Fullerton.

Would you welcome Warren Truss, the Chairman of ARTC.

Warren Truss Address

Well thank you very much John, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, Rick Colless representing the NSW Government, Mark Coulton, who has been the member for this area most of the time but isn’t currently the local member, but certainly a great champion of this project. The Wiradjuri people and particularly their elders who we honour. Councillor Ken Keith and the many other councillors and local government representatives who are here today. My fellow ARTC directors. Our contracting partners, it’s great to see all the orange jackets from INLink who are already busily involved in this project. Distinguished guests. Ladies and Gentlemen.

Well it’s an absolute pleasure to be here today to celebrate the commencement of construction of the Inland Rail. A project that in one form or another has been on the drawing board for more than a century. Indeed, at the time of Federation there were proposals to build a line from Melbourne, up through to Queensland and across to Darwin. And subsequently there have been many others. With grand schemes and more modest schemes to make this vital rail link a reality.

But in 2006 the detailed route selection process began. In about 2013 significant money was provided to enable the construction work to commence. And now the government has committed to back this project to the tune of about $8 or $9 billion. The total cost of the project about $12 billion, and it’s becoming a reality.

I’m particularly delighted to be with Minister Michael McCormack and Mark Coulton and Ken Keith and many of those people who have been champions of this project for many, many years. Who believed in it and wanted it to come to pass. And I’m pleased also that the project enjoys broad political spectrum support. That there’s support from around the country, from the state governments and local governments and also from opposition parties, towards this vital nation building project.

Today’s a particularly proud moment in the history of this country. The official start of construction on a national project of international stature that will energise regional areas in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.

It’s a very significant moment also in the history of the ARTC, as we celebrate our 20th anniversary. ARTC are proud to have been tasked by the Australian Government to deliver and operate Inland Rail. It speaks to the leadership provided by John Fullerton and his executive team that we’ve been entrusted by the government with such an important and challenging task. But it’s not a task we can deliver on our own. As the CEO of Inland Rail Richard Wankmuller never tires of saying, we will deliver Inland Rail with the support of governments, in partnership with the private sector and hand in hand with local communities.

So it’s particularly pleasing to be here today, to see so many of the ARTC supporters and customers, without whom we’d simply not have a network of trains moving across the nation. It should not be forgotten that the business case for Inland Rail is built on the core objective of getting as much freight as possible off our roads and highways, and onto rail.

And it’s our customers who are going to help deliver this transformation in the way we move freight around the country and contribute not only to a more prosperous future for all Australians, but a safer Australia as well. When hundreds of thousands of people who drive on the Newell and other regional highways of this country will be able to do so with a little bit more peace and enjoyment.

And the state governments, especially those in NSW and Victoria at present, who are supporting us in our endeavours to get on with constructing Inland Rail. These governments, particularly here in NSW, are working closely with us to plan how Inland Rail can connect better with their freight rail networks, and how a faster, straighter, more connected Inland Rail will deliver real and tangible benefits to towns, communities and landholders throughout regional areas.

I want to particularly acknowledge today the landholders who are here today, many of whom are likely to be impacted by the project but have also been willing to work alongside us to deliver the best possible Inland Rail. We appreciate that for many this requires some personal sacrifice. We appreciate that for some it could be disruptive to their farms and businesses.

Many though at the present stage of the development of the project have been concerned, perhaps needlessly, because the current two-kilometre-wide study area is being refined to 60 metres. And in the end the majority of the properties that are currently concerned will not actually be affected. Perhaps more than two thirds. However, we do appreciate that these people are making a contribution and enduring inconvenience because there is a project of national significance and national importance underway.

We are already seeing some of the benefits of this project with more than $630 million worth of contracts currently let and jobs being created in towns like Parkes and Tamworth and Mittagong. In South Australia where the steel works are very much in the news, which will deliver the rail for this project. And there’ll be thousands more to come over the next six to seven years.

I’m also particularly proud of the active engagement we have with our many indigenous communities right along the entire 1700-kilometre route. The Wiradjuri people and the other indigenous communities, for your support and willingness to engage with us.

Soon the Deputy Prime Minister will turn the first sod for this project using a century old shovel, and also a wheelbarrow that’s around 150 years old. This wheelbarrow and shovel have been used to begin other major rail projects around Australia. The Transcontinental Railway, which linked the new Australian Federation. The line to Alice Springs and to Darwin. It’s been used by Prime Ministers Fisher, Whitlam and Howard. But you Michael will be the first Deputy Prime Minister to use the shovel to commence an important project.

This is a historic event. Its significance is real. The Inland Rail from Melbourne to Brisbane will open up the land and deliver great national benefits just like the other projects that were begun with this historic shovel.

So ladies and gentlemen thank you for your time and for being with us on this very special occasion. We appreciate your support and we look forward with confidence to the Inland Rail being operational in the not too distant future.

Thank you.

December 13, 2018