Flooding concerns over $10b rail project

AN LNP member has raised serious concerns about the Coalition's contentious Inland Rail project, claiming there could be flooding impacts while urging the Commonwealth to be more transparent with its decision making.

In a scathing submission to the Senate inquiry, Southern Downs MP James Lister said his Millmerran constituents had consistently expressed doubts about the flood modelling conducted as part of the Condamine River floodplain crossing design.

He said photos showed previous flood heights were significantly above those indicated in the latest reports.


Member for Southern Downs James Lister.
Member for Southern Downs James Lister.

The MP also took aim at the "mishandling of route selection", referring to a 2017 Senate committee when then Senator Barry O'Sullivan exposed "what appeared to be a failure by Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) to appreciate the scope and cost of work required to build a rail line across the Condamine floodplain".

"In my opinion, the process adopted to select the current route for this section was flawed. I further believe that the work undertaken in planning and designing the crossing of the Condamine Floodplain has not satisfactorily dealt with potential flooding impacts on nearby properties and businesses," he wrote. He said while he wanted the project to proceed, he didn't support construction at this stage.

His calls echo former LNP leader Lawrence Springborg who raised concerns about flooding in 2016.

Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch has previously called for residents to be properly consulted by ARTC, which is carrying out the project with the Government. .

Inland rail project.
Inland rail project.

The $10 billion project promises to deliver a reliable freight system connecting Melbourne to Brisbane.

An inquiry into the management of the project is currently underway.

The Millmerran Rail Group also has concerns the flood methodology failed to recognise local evidence of flooding levels, impacts and extent which had been verified by expert assessments and submitted to ARTC.

Millmerran Rail Group president Wes Judd said, "As local landholders, we hold genuine concerns for the incompetent planning and assessment processes to date, and believe current decisions will lead to infrastructure, environmental and financial failures within our local district and to the overall integrity of the inland rail development".

In 2019, an independent peer review of the Condamine flood model was undertaken by Dr John Macintosh who concluded the ARTC's flood model could be used '…with a great degree of confidence'.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said the Government was confident it had the right study corridor for the project.

"To further support community confidence, the Australian Government, the Queensland Government and ARTC will establish a panel of independent international experts to cover flood-prone sections of the route in Queensland," he said.

"All final track placements and proposed designs for Inland Rail will also be assessed in accordance with State and Commonwealth planning and approvals legislation - meaning the public can have absolute confidence in final decisions."