DEPUTY prime minister and minister for infrastructure Michael McCormack said a recently announced rail investment would better link northern New South Wales, Inland Rail and the Port of Newcastle. 

The $44.7 million investment will see the Australian Rail and Track Corporation upgrade 35 kilometres of the Narrabri to Turrawan Line between the Hunter Valley Coal Network and Inland Rail. 

The project, announced last month, is to deliver an improved corridor capable of 25-tonne axle load trains going at 80 kilometres per hour to replace the current ageing, 20.5-tonne axle load track. 

Mr McCormack said the upgrade will allow longer and heavier freight trains from northern New South Wales – transporting food and fibre – to access the Newcastle and Sydney ports. 

“Greater volumes of freight moved on each train will reduce transport costs and make Australian exports more competitive,” he said. 

“The project will replace steel and timber sleepers with heavy-duty concrete ones, upgrade critical level crossings and improve the rail quality on the Narrabri Coal Junction to Turrawan section, as well as the Turrawan to Narrabri North section” 

A spokesperson for the Port of Newcastle said increased axle weights and longer trains on the section of rail will help create more supply-chain efficiency and reduce business cost. 

This is a welcome investment in freight productivity in NSW,” the spokesperson said. 

“Rail is the most efficient and environmentally sustainable mode of land freight transport. Rail is a key competitive advantage for Port of Newcastle, accounting for nearly all of the landside freight task to and from the port.” 

The spokesperson said New South Wales businesses can successfully compete in international markets through access to a world-class rail network and a deepwater port. 

“Any investment that makes these businesses even more competitive, including further enhancing the port’s existing connections to the Inland Rail, is a good thing for the economy, productivity and jobs,” the spokesperson said. 

Federal member for Parkes and minister for regional Health, regional communications and local government Mark Coulton said the project would enhance the region’s supply chain and support local industries. 

“The new load specifications are directly compatible with Inland Rail, meaning the Narrabri to Turrawan Line upgrade will provide a boost for the local farming community and other businesses using the rail line,” Mr Coulton said. 

“During my recent visit to the Port of Newcastle, it was clear to see the many benefits of our freight rail investments, so it’s with great excitement we inspect the upgrade site in Narrabri today.”