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 four 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.
Fast tracking infrastructure projects
The Government announced in June 2020 measures to streamline the environmental approval process for major infrastructure projects in order to begin construction. This measure intends to cut project approval times and reduce delays, which cost the industry over $300 million in 2019.
Inland Rail has been assessed as a priority project under a bilateral model between the Commonwealth, states and territories.
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 (the Panel) has been 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.
This Panel of leading experts operates at arms-length of Government and ARTC and is an important function to make sure the design is right, safe and informed by the best science possible.
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 of Planning and Industry and Environment and the 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 Environment, Land, Water and Planning.
Offsets for Inland Rail projects within Queensland are currently being investigated by ARTC that will deliver conservation outcomes.
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.