Inland Rail will increase the capacity of existing freight infrastructure, through the use of double stacked trains that transport more freight with less fuel. Moving freight by rail is 4 times more fuel efficient than moving freight by road. Inland Rail will cut carbon emissions by 750,000 tonnes per year from 2050.
It is anticipated that there will be 200,000 less trucks on the road per annum by 2050 due to the enhanced capacity of Inland Rail.
Through reducing road congestion, there will be a reduction in emissions and noise resulting in improved environmental sustainability.
Construction of Inland Rail is required to meet environmental conditions under state and federal legislation, including the development of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
This involves significant community consultation and an assessment of the environmental, economic and social impact and appropriate mitigation measures.
The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) works closely with landowners and communities along the Inland Rail alignment to minimise any impact on their land and works through the appropriate environmental and planning assessment processes for each state to obtain the necessary approvals for construction to commence.
There are policies in place that guide the process for the planning, design and implementation of Inland Rail.
While Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland have different planning approval legislations, all of these processes involve appropriate field studies, environmental assessments and community consultation.
Detail on the EIS process for each respective state is available on the ARTC website.
Each year ARTC publish an annual sustainability report to measure the performance of the project against environmental and social objectives.
Reporting on sustainability outcomes for the first Parkes to Narromine section showed significant recovery of materials as well as reduced water use and greenhouse gases during construction.
Decisions about floodplain crossings raise legitimate concerns about flooding impacts. It is very important that local feedback, particularly as it relates to flood modelling be considered as part of the design and construction of Inland Rail.
An Independent Panel of International Experts was established by the Government to review and provide advice on the flood modelling that underlies the design of the Inland Rail route where it crosses a floodplain environment in Queensland.
On 7 October 2022, the Australian and Queensland governments released the final report of the Independent International Panel of Experts for Flood Studies of Inland Rail in Queensland. The report included 6 recommendations to assist ARTC with its further design and delivery of the Inland Rail program and found that ARTC's modelling is largely in line with best practice.
State governments administer biodiversity offsets that provide various forms of relief to landowners whom participate in a biodiversity stewardship agreement.
Landowners interested in registering their property on a Biodiversity Stewardship Site will receive credit payments and provide an incentive for incorporating conservation into the long-term management and control of their land. In particular, properties continuing native grasslands are encouraged to register.
The aim of the scheme is to offset the impacts from construction of the Inland Rail projects in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria.
In New South Wales, the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme is administered by the NSW Department Biodiversity Conservation Trust.
For Inland Rail projects within Victoria, existing third-party offsets will be used to purchase vegetation offsets and is administered by the Victorian Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action.
ARTC purchased the first property for biodiversity offsets in Queensland, in 2022. The 2,800 hectare property is located in Canning Creek and will enable ARTC to offset environmental impacts from Border to Gowrie construction activity.
Elsewhere on the alignment, significant progress has been made with biodiversity offset programs in New South Wales and Victoria.
In New South Wales, Inland Rail has successfully completed a large procurement exercise to purchase 20,000 species credits, so far securing 38,000 offset credits towards the program in the state.
In Victoria, state offset requirements have been fulfilled and assessments to meet the Australian Government's offset requirements are expected to be completed early next year.
Learn more about biodiversity offsets on the ARTC Inland Rail website.
Water management and sources
How water is sourced, used and managed in the construction of Inland Rail is an ongoing consideration for Government and ARTC.
Water for Inland Rail construction is sourced responsibly and used efficiently. ARTC also use biodegradable polymers to suppress dust, limiting water for landscaping works when necessary and sourcing non-potable water.
ARTC and its subcontractors have been sensitive to the immediate water access requirements of those communities along the Inland Rail alignment and used water from a variety of sources – prioritising non-potable sources for construction where possible.
ARTC is delivering Inland Rail within the agreed Environmental Impact requirements where construction is underway and looking beyond the statutory minimum to develop a long-term, comprehensive strategy of how water is used and managed in construction of this project.
ARTC's noise management strategy ensures a consistent approach across the 3 states while also meeting state specific requirements. Detailed field investigations will be undertaken as part of the EIS and these will be used to develop a specific noise mitigation strategy. There are multiple treatments options available to mitigate noise, which are investigated through the design phase for each project. The Government is committing up to $2.5 million to trial composite noise walls within the Inland Rail corridor made up of up to 75% Australian recycled plastic material.
The trial will provide an alternate for concrete walls that are used to manage train noise and provide local economic stimulus – supporting regional employment opportunities and the recycling industry in Australia.
ARTC will work with an Australian supplier to develop a recycled noise wall that meets ARTC's structural and engineering requirements for use within the rail corridor.
Each square metre of recycled noise wall is expected to consume around 150 plastic bottles – supporting a lower carbon footprint and reducing the impact to the environment when compared to precast concrete panels.
The trial will provide product viability testing for longer-term and broader application, including durability of the walls and whether they can be used on other sections of Inland Rail and networks.