Yelarbon to Gowrie alignment review

On 21 September 2017, the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, the Hon Darren Chester MP, announced that the Border to Gowrie corridor via Wellcamp and Charlton will proceed to the planning and approvals phase.

Minister Chester wrote to 8,500 landowners along the four corridor options to advise them of the outcome PDF: 2855 KB ReadSpeaker .

The alignment will support the development of Toowoomba and the Darling Downs region through its proximity to the west Toowoomba industrial precinct.

For Queensland state planning purposes, the Yelarbon to Gowrie section of Inland Rail will be combined with the Border to Yelarbon section to form the Border to Gowrie project. The 2km wide study corridor will go through a 12 to 18 month assessment and approvals process that will further refine the alignment.

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Australian Government decision

The preferred corridor supports the development of Toowoomba and the Darling Downs region through its proximity to the west Toowoomba industrial precinct.

The decision balanced a range of factors, including potential impacts on landholders and communities, environmental and cultural heritage considerations, technical viability, ability to meet the Inland Rail service offering and construction cost.

The corridor via Inglewood, Millmerran, Pittsworth, Southbrook, Wellcamp and Charlton has the following benefits:

  • long-term strategic merit in connecting to the west Toowoomba industrial precinct.
  • fewer community and property impacts than the Base Case Modified and Warwick options.
  • the fastest transit time of all four options, which may assist in maintaining service reliability and availability.
  • the least additional expense above the Base Case Modified option.

For Queensland state planning purposes, the Yelarbon to Gowrie section of Inland Rail will be combined with the Border to Yelarbon section to form the Border to Gowrie project. The 2km wide study corridor will be refined to an approximately 40 to 60 metre wide alignment through the 12 to 18 month environmental assessment and approvals process.

Alignment review

ARTC follows a Process to Refine the Route across the whole Inland Rail corridor.

Between December 2016 and April 2017 four corridor options between Yelarbon and Gowrie underwent a like-for-like review to determine which option to take to detailed design, planning and approvals phase.

This included:

  • Multi-Criteria Analysis of each of the four options.
  • Comparative cost estimates.
  • Community consultation and a report on the transparency of the process.

The Australian Government’s decision was informed by:

  • The outcomes of the like-for-like analysis.
  • Capital expenditure costings.
  • A report PDF: 3320 KB ReadSpeaker developed by the Chair of the Yelarbon to Gowrie Project Reference Group, Mr Bruce Wilson AM on the transparency and objectivity of the review process and key community issues.

Corridor options reviewed

The corridors reviewed were:

  • the route from Inglewood through Millmerran proposed in the 2010 Inland Rail Alignment Study PDF: 3634 KB ReadSpeaker and endorsed in 2015 by the Inland Rail Implementation Group.
  • a route through Karara and Leyburn.
  • a route closer to Warwick.
  • a route or connection to the Charlton and Wellcamp areas.

preview image for the Yelarbon to Gowrie (Y2G) Project overview conceptual corridor routes

This map PDF: 2660 KB ReadSpeaker was produced by AECOM/Aurecon for the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC).

Note: Any differences between this map and previous maps are due to corridor refinements or for clarity purposes.

The four corridor options were compared on a like-for-like basis in the most extensive Inland Rail corridor study undertaken to date in the region.

These were reviewed in response to feedback from stakeholders, including community, businesses and local elected officials.

The corridor options that go via west Toowoomba industrial precinct were included in the review because the new industrial developments that have occurred since 2015 could open up another avenue for longer-term benefit both for Inland Rail and for the local region.

All four options cross the Condamine floodplain and agricultural land to some extent. The planning and approvals process will determine the measures that will mitigate, minimise or offset any potential negative impacts on agricultural land and communities.

Base Case Modified corridor

The Corridor Options report found that the Base Case Modified corridor had similar costs and impacts as the preferred Wellcamp-Charlton corridor, but without the longer-term benefits of access to the west Toowoomba industrial precinct.

A separate review of the Base Case alignment considered in more detail its suitability to connect with Queensland Rail’s Western System (which runs to Quilpie), relative to the other options.

The review indicated that this alignment would pose a significant engineering challenge to integrate Inland Rail with the existing western line at Kingsthorpe. Other considerations were its potentially high impacts on the Kingsthorpe community and existing train operations.

Warwick corridor

The Warwick corridor option was much more expensive than the other proposed alignments (approx. $130 million more expensive than Karara-Leyburn and $310 million more expensive than Wellcamp-Charlton). The existing track has tight curves and long sections of steep track. To make it suitable for Inland Rail, it would generally need to be rebuilt.

It was also longer than the other proposed alignments (approx. 40km longer than both Wellcamp-Charlton and Karara-Leyburn) and would add 45 minutes to the total transit time. However, this additional time would still allow the Inland Rail Service Offering to be achieved.

Karara-Leyburn corridor

The Karara-Leyburn corridor’s cost was substantially higher than the Base Case—estimated as an additional $285 million (or a 23% cost increase) without significant additional benefit.  

Wellcamp-Charlton corridor

The report found that the Wellcamp-Charlton corridor option had the lowest additional cost when compared to the Base Case Modified (an 8% cost increase). It crosses the same distance of the Condamine River floodplain as the Base Case Modified and but has the fewest major waterway crossings of the four options.

The Wellcamp-Charlton corridor offers long-term strategic merit in connecting to the west Toowoomba industrial precinct with the lowest incremental cost compared to the Base Case. Further, it offers the shortest transit time, leverages existing rail and road infrastructure and well established agricultural supply chains.

Alignment studies

In 2008 the Australian Government commissioned the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail Alignment Study which identified a preferred corridor through central-west New South Wales. The corridor identified in this study is known as the 2010 Base Case alignment or corridor.

Since that time, a number of additional route studies have been undertaken looking at refinements and alternatives to the preferred corridor between Melbourne and Brisbane.

In 2015 and 2016, an additional series of concept studies were commissioned by ARTC to further assess and refine the Inland Rail alignment, including between Yelarbon and Gowrie in Queensland. A report by the Inland Rail Implementation Group in 2015 endorsed the Base Case alignment between North Star and Toowoomba, noting that further refinement may be required.

A number of previous studies with varying level of analysis have considered differing routes within Queensland to provide a freight corridor between Melbourne and Brisbane. The studies are summarised in the Corridor Options Report. The studies are:

  • 2005 to 2006 North-South Rail Corridor Study, Department of Transport and Regional Services.
  • 2008 to 2010 Melbourne-Brisbane Inland Rail Alignment Study, Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, and Local Government.
  • 2015 MBIR—Engineering and Technical Services Alignment Refinement Report, ARTC.
  • 2015 MBIR Options Analysis Project, Department of Transport and Main Roads.

Bringalily State Forest route

Alternative alignments through the state forest, west of the Base Case corridor, were examined by ARTC at a high level. The furthest west alignments possible were examined, including a route along the power line easement through Bringalily State Forest, joining to the Cecil Plains rail line.

This corridor was found to be between seven and 12km longer than the Base Case Modified. The terrain in this area would require significantly more earthworks and negatively impact the travel time.

The outcomes were presented at a workshop on 21 September 2016 attended by representatives of:

  • Goondiwindi Regional Council
  • Toowoomba Regional Council
  • the Queensland Department of National Parks, Sport and Racing
  • ARTC

It was agreed at the workshop that the option through state forest would not meet the Inland Rail Service Offering and would not be progressed further. High level examination of other possible alignments though the state forest were also found to be less feasible than the Base Case.

Summary and key outcomes of the Corridor Options report

Overview

The 2017 Corridor Options report was developed by independent consultants AECOM/Aurecon with two key objectives:

  • to perform a robust like-for-like engineering and environmental comparative assessment of the three alternative corridor options against the Base Case Modified between Yelarbon and Gowrie.
  • to develop comparative cost estimates of the options against the Base Case Modified.

In order to achieve a like-for-like analysis, AECOM/Aurecon applied a consistent level of investigation for all four options, ensuring the underlying data, level of detail for investigation and overall assessment was consistent for all four options.

Note: The report does not recommend a corridor. The Australian Government’s decision was informed by a corridor recommended by ARTC based on the outcomes of Corridor Options Report, the Chair’s report on the Yelarbon to Gowrie Alignment Review and community and stakeholder consultation.

Multi-Criteria Analysis

A Multi-Criteria Analysis (MCA) was undertaken using the data and information gathered throughout the like-for-like review of the four Yelarbon to Gowrie corridor options.

The MCA compared the three corridor options to the Base Case Modified corridor against a number of criteria and sub-criteria (page 23 of the report). These are applied consistently for all Inland Rail alignment reviews. The criteria include community and property impacts, technical viability, environmental and heritage impacts and constructability.

For the purposes of the MCA, information and data was quantified wherever possible and each criteria across the three corridor options were scored relative to the Base Case Modified option. This comparison resulted in an overall score. The scores were defined as:

ScoreDefinitionDescription
10 Significant improvement Major positive impacts resulting in substantial and long term improvement or enhancements
5 Improvement Positive impacts resulting in long term improvement or enhancements
0 Neutral Neutral—no discernible or predicted positive or negative impact
-5 Decline Negative impacts with long term and possible irreversible effects leading to serious damage, degradation or deterioration of the physical economic or social environment. Requires a commitment to extensive management strategies to mitigate effect
-10 Significant decline Major negative impacts with serious, long term and possible irreversible effects leading to serious damage, degradation or deterioration of the physical economic or social environment. Requires a major commitment to extensive management strategies to mitigate effect

The results of the MCA indicated that two of the alternative options (Wellcamp-Charlton and Karara-Leyburn) scored closely to the Base Case Modified. The third alternative option (Warwick) scored negatively when compared to the Base Case Modified.

The MCA was conducted by technical experts from AECOM and Aurecon. The process was observed by representatives for members of the Yelarbon to Gowrie Project Reference Group.

Comparative cost estimates

Note: In order to apply cost estimates to the four options, some basic assumptions were made at a concept level. These assumptions, quantities and cost estimates were independently verified to provide confidence in the robustness of the estimates.

The main components of construction costs are earthworks, bridges and drainage structures. During the detailed design phase, the best engineering solutions will be determined in close consultation with community.

The comparative cost estimates compared to the Base Case Modified were:

  • Wellcamp-Charlton: 8% more expensive
  • Karara-Leyburn: 23% more expensive
  • Warwick: 34% more expensive

The cost estimate was developed independently using the data that supported the MCA process.

Community and property impacts

The report notes that all alignment options will affect landholders and local communities. However, the affects vary across the different communities.

The MCA found that the Wellcamp-Charlton and the Karara-Layburn options scored +5 when compared to the Base Case Modified. While Karara-Leyburn traverses fewer freehold properties than Wellcamp-Charlton, the type of properties differ. The Karara-Leyburn corridor would impact animal husbandry and residential properties.

Warwick scored -5 against the Base Case Modified. As well as being significantly longer and more expensive, it traverses more freehold properties than the other options.

Note: The Project Reference Group was established to oversee the transparency of the like-for-like review. This ensured that the process used in the MCA was rigorous. It also provided local context and data to assist with the MCA.

Floodplain assessment

Each of the four corridor options cross the Condamine River floodplain to varying degrees. Due to the complexity and magnitude of flows across the Condamine River floodplain, detailed two-dimensional hydraulic modelling was undertaken to assess the floodplain characteristics for each option. This was carried out for both the Condamine River floodplain and the Macintyre River.

Existing hydrological and hydraulic models were sourced from Toowoomba Regional Council and Southern Downs Regional Council flood studies. Input from Project Reference Group Members assisted in modifying the models to improve their predictability against real experience.
Different structures, such as bridges and culverts, were adopted in the modelling for the waterways, taking into account a number of factors including peak flow, flood depth and flood width. In other parts of the floodplain, particularly along the Warwick corridor, the significantly deeper flood depths were taken into account.

Optimised viaducts and bridge structure solutions were developed for the main Condamine River floodplains for each option.

For the Base Case Modified and Wellcamp-Charlton options, the Condamine River flows are concentrated in three distinct flow paths, with a shallow out of bank flow across the floodplain. Therefore, three viaducts were assessed as able to conform with the high level design criteria, supported by a large number of ‘balancing culverts’ to spread the flow. The report also found that for the upper Condamine River crossing a series of bridges are required to span each individual river crossing.

These solutions were used across all four options to inform the like-for-like review and provide a consistent cost estimate. The detailed design will further investigate and determine the best engineering solutions for the region.

Note: The final engineering design cannot be determined until detailed on-the-ground analysis is undertaken.

Visual impacts

Visual impacts, as defined in the report, are changes in the available views of the landscape which occur as a result of the development. These impacts were determined through the subjective assessment of people’s sensitivity to structures (such as bridges, culverts and embankments) and the magnitude (scale) of the change in view.

Sensitivity is dependent on:

  • the person’s location
  • the importance of their view
  • their activity (such as working, recreational or travelling through)
  • expectations
  • available view
  • the extent of screening of this view

The Inland Rail specifications of 1,800m long trains, double stacked and travelling at 115km/h were taken into account for this assessment.

In addition to the movement of the trains through the environment, the following were considered:

  • elevated ballast and track above natural ground level.
  • changes to landform with embankments of varying height.
  • creation of passing loops.
  • bridges and upgrades to existing bridges.
  • culverts.
  • additional road network infrastructure across the project properties, as a result of road closures.
  • loss of vegetation.
  • severance of agricultural land and loss of rural amenity.

Temporary visual impacts associated with construction were also taken into account.

Noise and vibration

The noise impact assessment was undertaken in accordance with the New South Wales Rail Infrastructure Noise Guidelines which are more stringent than the noise criteria for railways in Queensland.

Noise and vibration potential was assessed for residential land uses for the day (7am to 10pm) and night (10pm to 7am), non-residential land uses for periods when the land is in use (for example, schools and healthcare facilities) and commercial or industrial premises.

Yelarbon to Gowrie Project Reference Group

The Yelarbon to Gowrie Project Reference Group was formed to provide local community input into the review of four alignment options for the section of Inland Rail between Yelarbon and Gowrie in Queensland.

Throughout the process, members were able to provide information and data concerning the alignment options and individual recommendations on the alignment. However it was not the purpose of the Project Reference Group to determine a single preferred alignment.

The review process was intended to involve a six week like-for-like analysis. The technical consulting team took direction from the Project Reference Group members, who requested more detail and the refinement of some modelling. As a result, the Multi-Criteria Analysis workshop was held four months after the review process began. By responding to members’ feedback, the technical consulting team demonstrated their commitment to the process and its rigour.

The report from the Chair endorsed the like-for-like review on behalf of the Project Reference Group.

Report from the Chair

On 27 April 2017, the Chair of the Yelarbon to Gowrie Project Reference Group provided the Minister with his report PDF: 3320 KB ReadSpeaker on the transparency and objectivity of the review process. The report also identified key community issues for the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport to consider in the decision making process.

The Chair’s report confirmed the majority of Project Reference Group member’s endorsement of the like-for-like review; that it was conducted using the best available data applied with consistent rigor across the four alignment options.

Meetings

Meetings of the Reference Group were held on the following dates:

14 December 2016

1 February 2017

20 February 2017 (Part 1 of 2)

27 February 2017 (Part 2 of 2)

15 March 2017

22 March 2017

10 April 2017

  • Agenda DOCX: 26 KB PDF: 120 KB ReadSpeaker
  • This was the final meeting of the Reference Group
  • Mr Wilson will provide Minister Chester with his report (April 2017)

Chair

Minister Chester announced the appointment of Mr Bruce Wilson AM as the Inland Rail Queensland Community Advisor and Chair of the Reference Group on 30 November 2016. Mr Wilson has held many senior leadership roles including Director General of Queensland Transport, and has the required technical expertise to assess a major infrastructure project such as Inland Rail.

On 27 April 2017 Mr Wilson provided a report to Minister Chester on the transparency of the like-for-like review process and community concerns.

On 27 January 2017, a letter DOCX: 854 KB PDF: 243 KB ReadSpeaker from Mr Wilson was sent to potentially affected landholders in the Yelarbon to Gowrie study area. This letter introduced the Project Reference Group and explained its role. It also provided a map of the four corridor options that were under consideration.

Membership

Organisations such as farming peak bodies; chambers of commerce and business groups; environmental and conservation organisations; and community and progress associations were invited to nominate representatives to be Members of the Project Reference Group. Relevant elected officials and State agencies also attended meetings of the Project Reference Group as observers.

As part of the Yelarbon to Gowrie review process, Members were invited to make submissions regarding the Inland Rail. Items raised are considered by the Chair, and technical data is shared with AECOM and Aurecon to inform the like-for-like review.

The Terms of Reference DOCX: 26 KB PDF: 108 KB ReadSpeaker, which was agreed by all Members at the first meeting, explains the role of the Reference Group and of those involved in the process.

Non-Member Engagement Opportunities

The Chair of the Reference Group attended face-to-face community engagement sessions. These sessions allowed those not involved in the Project Reference Group to express their views and ask questions about Inland Rail in the Yelarbon to Gowrie area.

Information provided by community members to the Chair, Project Reference Group Members and the department helped both in the understanding of potential community impacts and in verifying the accuracy of the data used by the technical experts conducting the alignment review.

Contact us for more information

For further information about the Yelarbon to Gowrie alignment review please contact the Inland Rail Unit.

Email: inlandrail@infrastructure.gov.au
Phone: 02 6274 6683
Post: Inland Rail Unit, Stakeholder Engagement Section
Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development
GPO Box 594
CANBERRA ACT 2601