The Orana and Central West regions could become a major industry hub once the federal government’s Melbourne-Brisbane rail link – Inland Rail – comes online.
$8.4 billion was committed in the Federal Budget with construction set to begin on some sections before Christmas.
The move was welcomed by State Member for Orange Phil Donato, Federal Member for Riverina Michael McCormack, Federal Member for Parkes Mark Coulton, NSW Farmers, Regional Development Australia in Orana and the Central West, and the Western NSW Business Chamber.
The project will deliver a significant employment boost for the region. It is estimated to create 16,000 new jobs at the peak of its construction, with the longest and most significant works – about 307 kilometres of new track – between Narromine and Narrabri. The 1700km freight rail link will also include upgrades to existing track between Parkes and Narromine.
Federal Transport Minister Darren Chester and Mr Coulton held a briefing in Narromine on Friday.
“Now it’s a question of working closely with communities and working very closely with mayors … It’s about maximising growth in regional areas … get benefits flowing throughout the route,” Mr Chester said.
“My commitment is to make sure the benefits locally are as big as they can possibly be.”
Mr McCormack said: “I have no doubt local exporters, farmers and producers will be very pleased …
“This is nation-building infrastructure which will become a corridor of commerce, creating economic growth along the entirety of the route and ensure produce from Riverina farms finds its way to the dinner plates of Asia.”
Mr Donato said the region has much to gain, particularly surrounding job creation.
“From the construction phase through to maintenance and servicing of the link, the job opportunities are significant,” he said.
“The ability to move produce quickly and cost-effectively is also vitally important in an agricultural area such as the Orange electorate.
A report by Regional Development Central West has found that the economic impact of the project to the Central West is estimated at $216M over 60 years.
Regional Development Australia (RDA) Orana chair John Walkom dubbed it the budget “jewel in the crown”.
He said the rail link would provide greater access to Asian markets, which local producers could capitalise on through value-adding. “This is certainly a generational piece of infrastructure.”
Western NSW Business Chamber regional manager Vicki Seccombe said: “The short and long term benefits to businesses in inland NSW will be high and projects such as the Inland Rail are job creators for our region. But we do want to see a commitment to using our local businesses to provide goods and services for the project.”