It was a truly historic day for regional Australia on Tuesday when a special gold clip was hammered into place on track at Peak Hill to signify the completion of the first section of the Inland Rail.
The section of track, that stretches from Parkes to Narromine, upgraded 98km of existing corridor and created 5.3km of new rail; after the first sod was turned on December 13, 2018.
"What a significant and momentous day," declared Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack.
"Better connectivity makes sure the rest of the country knows regional Australia is the centre of our economy."
Mr McCormack said Peak Hill was the perfect location to celebrate the achievement as it was here on January 15, 2018 that the first shipment of Australian-made steel (106km was used in total) delivered to begin the project.
"This is real progress on a project which has been talked about since federation; already our Government has delivered more than 1,800 jobs and $100 million in local stimulus through Inland Rail."
Mr McCormack displayed his rigorous passion for regional Australia at the event, spruiking just how crucial this project is for our great country.
"We have the best food and fibre in the world, and a corridor of freight will help maximise this.
"Inland Rail is an investment in Australia - in our economy, in our regions and in the capacity of our future freight network," Mr McCormack said.
Mr McCormack also pointed out the importance the Parkes Shire in the completion of the project, noting the contribution of Mayor Ken Keith OAM and Parkes-based companies Calvani Crushing and Ausrock Quarries, in who Inland Rail invested $25 million.
Cr Keith gave an insight into just how important the project was for the Shire, both now and in the years to come.
"During the construction phase, Parkes Shire's unemployment rate reduced from 7.6 per cent in 2018 to now 4.4 per cent which is well below the national average.
"The NSW Government has also announced the Parkes Special Activation Precinct and are investing $185 million in enabling infrastructure all to take advantage of Inland Rail."
Also present at the event was Minister for Regional Health, Regional Communications and Local Government and Federal Member for Parkes, Mark Coulton; who Mr McCormack described as a 'train nerd' that shows genuine passion and fascination for Inland rail.
"Inland Rail will present new growth opportunities for farmers, producers and manufacturers in the regional areas of New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria," said Mr Coulton.
We depend on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe here. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.
"Regional businesses have been calling out for world-class transport and logistics to get their products to market and the Australian Government is delivering.
"I spoke to a farmer from Parkes this morning who has been farming in the area for 53 years, and he told me this is the best harvest conditions he has ever seen; one of the reasons this project is so important."
Mr Coulton said the Parkes to Narromine section was built with the skills of local communities, with more than 760 locals contributing to the project while almost $110 million was spent with local businesses.
"As we continue building Inland Rail we will see even more growth opportunities for local businesses and employment for those in regional Australia," he said.
"We're now looking ahead to the Narrabri to North Star project, scheduled to commence construction later this year, where we will see similar local benefits as Inland Rail provides a must needed catalyst for stimulus in our regions."
Mr Coulton recollected travelling to Parkes over 15 years ago for the first ever Inland Rail symposium, which was hosted by the Parkes Shire Council and he was stern in his belief Parkes is the epicentre of rail in Australia.
"Regional Australia is the beating heart of our country, and the Parkes rail corridor is the artery that keeps it healthy."
The ceremony was opened by local Wiradjuri elder Aunty Rhonda, who thanked Inland Rail for finding and protecting many Indigenous artefacts, in addition to employing 197 Indigenous workers on the project.
Parkes to Narromine Inland Rail fast facts
- Upgrades to 98km of existing corridor and 5.3km of new rail
- 1,862 people worked on the project, 762 of which were Parkes residents
- 302 Indigenous people worked on the project, 197 of whom are local
- 99 local businesses supplied to the project, nine of which are Indigenous
- $109.7 million total spend with local businesses, $14.1 million of which has been spent with Indigenous businesses
- $20 million in steel rail (14,000 tonnes) supplied by Liberty One Steel in Whyalla, South Australia
- $20 million awarded to Rocla in Mittagong for 200,000 concrete sleepers
- $13 million worth of culverts weighing 26,625 tonnes from Holcim, Tamworth
- 365,000 rail clips from Pandrol, Blacktown