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20 May, 2022

Meeting demands rail review

Our community deserves, our community demands, a comprehensive and independent review of the Inland Rail project.

This was the message loud and clear from 50 people attending a public meeting at the Pittsworth Function Centre earlier this month.

Meeting convener, Groom independent candidate Susie Holt, had secured the presence of Everald Compton, whose tireless promotion of the concept during the 1990s and early 2000s had set the wheels in motion. 

But according to multiple speakers at the meeting, that original concept has been bastardised and mismanaged.

“This is now the worst organised infrastructure project in this country since Arthur Phillip arrived here,” Mr Compton said.

The 90-year-old dynamo first went to Canberra in 1996 promoting an inland rail expressway linking Melbourne and Darwin via Toowoomba and Gladstone.

He said newly elected Prime Minister John Howard had approved of the concept to help producers and manufacturers get their products to export markets, provided it could be built with minimal impacts on landholders.

“ARTC are doing exactly the opposite,” Mr Compton said.

 “There are protest groups all along the line, at Euroa, Wagga Wagga, Narromine, Narrabri, Goondiwindi, the Lockyer Valley and Brisbane suburbs.”

Other invited speakers included Millmerran Rail Group president Wes Judd and veteran Darling Downs journalist Miles Noller.

Mr Judd rallied those present not to give up the fight.

“Nobody give up hope,” he urged. 

“The whole project needs to be reviewed. It’s not underway yet. 

“There’s a lot more to come out of the EIS process.”

Mr Judd rejected criticism that landholders are delaying the project by their protests, saying their concerns are legitimate.

“It wouldn’t still be stuck where it is if there weren’t so many problems with it,” he said.

Miles Noller champions the ‘forestry route’ from Yelarbon to Wellcamp via Cecil Plains and Mount Tyson and then along the Toowoomba bypass road alignment.

“Why create a new corridor of disruption?” he said, adding that Western Downs mayor Paul McVeigh favours a line to Gladstone.

For her part, Susie Holt said in her last 18 months of ‘truly listening’ to the community, she is now aware of how deeply the inland rail project has affected people, even though many Toowoomba residents remain unaware.

“If elected, I will call immediately for a task force for a review of the route,” she said.

“I’m here to listen to the community and to take the community to Canberra. 

“If enough independents get on the cross bench,
it will give us power and we’ll be able to effect change.”

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