THE AUSTRALIAN Rail Track Corporation said an environmental assessment of its plan to upgrade 35 kilometres of track between the Hunter Valley coal network and the Inland Rail has been approved.

According to the ARTC, the Narrabri to Turrawan Line Upgrade (N2TLU) will facilitate increased freight volumes to travel from north-western New South Wales through to Newcastle and Sydney ports for export.   

ARTC said the upgrade would also enable greater volumes of freight to be moved on each train, which would reduce operating and transport costs to enhance supply chain efficiency and competitiveness of Australian exports.

The Australian government announced $44.7 million in funding for the project in December 2020.

ARTC said it has now moved a step closer to beginning the construction phase of the project following the recent approval of the review of environmental factors.

The review was submitted along with a report containing public submissions on the planned upgrade.

ARTC received two public submissions on its review of environmental factors, which it responded to in the submissions report.

One submission raised concerns around construction traffic, dust and noise from the use of a local quarry, however ARTC noted the quarry referred to was outside of its control and management.

“ARTC has already completed project development activities including geotechnical investigations, track alignment, survey, and constructability assessments on the N2TLU,” ARTC said in a statement.

“The upgrade will be delivered from Narrabri Coal Junction at Whitehaven Coal, south of Turrawan, to the future interface with Inland Rail at Narrabri North with construction expected to begin later this year.”

ARTC said it will continue to update the community as work on the upgrade progresses.