DEPUTY Prime Minister Michael McCormack has turned the first sod in construction of the Inland Railway.

Mr McCormack marked the ceremonial start of construction at a site in Parkes during an event attended by ARTC executives, construction contractor INLink and other dignitaries.

Construction is starting where the first 5.3km of new rail for Inland Rail is to be built and close to where around 98km of existing corridors are being upgraded between Parkes and Narromine.

ARTC chief executive John Fullerton said the start of Inland Rail construction heralded an historic and important milestone for Australia.

“The sod-turn for Inland Rail is a significant, momentous occasion and it’s fitting to celebrate it at the site where the first greenfields section of Inland Rail will be built,” Mr Fullerton said.

“When Inland Rail is operational, Parkes will be an important hub with double stacked, 1800 metre trains connecting west to Perth and Adelaide and along the east coast between Melbourne and Brisbane.

“Australia’s rail system has always been essential to the freight supply chain and once built, Inland Rail will enhance the national freight rail network.”

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Inland Rail chief executive Richard Wankmuller said Inland Rail would transform the way Australia moved freight.

“With Inland Rail we will have a more resilient rail network, with multiple pathways to meet the needs of our customers while also providing flexibility for our farmers by connecting to existing regional freight lines,” Mr Wankmuller said.

“Inland Rail is the safe, sustainable, integrated solution that will help address Australia’s current freight inefficiencies. This new 1700km freight rail line will help capture commercial opportunities in both metropolitan and regional areas through more efficient and commercially responsive supply chains.”

ARTC chair and former infrastructure minister Warren Truss said with Inland Rail now in construction, the benefits and jobs were being realised with Aussie steel from Whyalla, concrete sleepers being fabricated in the NSW Southern Highlands, ballast coming from Parkes and culverts produced in Tamworth.

“Inland Rail will generate opportunities and benefits to the regions – 16,000 jobs and $16bn dollars to the economy and will stimulate business activity beyond the construction phase,” Mr Truss said.

Inland Rail is to include about 1100km of major upgrades and enhancements to existing track and construction of approximately 600kms of new track.

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