THE proponents of a 8km dual freight rail tunnel linking Acacia Ridge with the Port of Brisbane have enlisted one of the world’s top tunnelling experts to lobby for the project.
Hans-Peter Vetsch, a former senior executive at AlpTransit Gotthard, will speak at a forum in Brisbane on Wednesday for National Trunk Rail, the private consortium behind the planned Melbourne to Brisbane freight line. The line’s last link will be the tunnel to the Brisbane Port.
The Gotthard Tunnel is the world’s longest rail tunnel traversing 57km under the Swiss/Italian Alps. The first test trains began operation in October with full passenger and freight operation scheduled to start in December next year.
NTR chairman Martin Albrecht said the naysayers over the engineering feasibility of the proposed Brisbane tunnel only had to look at the Gotthard tunnel to realise it could be done.
“Our proposed tunnel is only a fraction of the length of the Gotthard tunnel so there is no problem from an engineering point of view,” Mr Albrecht said. “We just have to get on and get this done to get the trucks off our highways.”
The Federal Government-owned Australian Rail Track Corporation, which is proposing a rival Melbourne to Brisbane rail link, has thrown cold water on the tunnel plan. It says the cost of building the tunnel would be prohibitive and envisages an overland link to the port following the Gateway Arterial corridor.
Mr Albrecht said the overland plan was short-sighted and had already sparked protests from local residents concerned about noisy freight trains running through their suburbs. Brisbane Deputy Mayor Adrian Schrinner said the community and environmental impacts of the proposed rail line along the Gateway Motorway would be entirely unacceptable.
NTR meanwhile has started briefing MPs in Queensland, NSW and Victoria on its plan, writing to federal and state politicians detailing the economic and social benefits of the rail link.
“We have invested more than $10 million to develop our plans for a rail system that is shorter, flatter and straighter than that proposed by ARTC,” Mr Albrecht said.
The Port of Brisbane currently handles more than 1 million containers each year but by 2040 that figure is expected to reach four million containers.
The Federal Government is still considering how to proceed with the inland rail project but has committed $300 million to get pre-construction activities under way, including detailed corridor planning, environmental assessments and priority land acquisition.
The forum will be held at QUT Gardens Theatre Foyer on December 2 from 5.30pm.
Norris, G. (2015). Swiss tunnel expert lends supports to freight tunnel to Brisbane Port. The Courier Mail. [online] Available at: http://www.couriermail.com.au/business/swiss-tunnel-expert-lends-supports-to-freight-tunnel-to-brisbane-port/news-story/227aecd07d29e815777c4fa264a6aac2 [Accessed 17 Dec. 2015].