Inland Rail to Toowoomba close to being announced
THE Inland Rail's route through southern Queensland might already have been decided, according to former Groom MP Ian Macfarlane.
Transport Minister Darren Chester has to choose between four different and controversial routes running from Gowrie to Yelarbon in the Southern Downs, after he was handed several reports exploring the benefits and costs of each corridor earlier this year.
But Mr Macfarlane, who spoke about Inland Rail in Toowoomba last week, said the most popular routes were the original corridor through Millmerran and a run through Felton.
"I heard that the infrastructure committee was meeting last week," he said.
"It is good for Toowoomba regardless. My understanding is the decision is very close to being made, if not already made.
"The alternative to (Millmerran) is to come up through Felton, (but) that rail line would require massive resumptions of land there."
The news comes after 250 angry landholders crammed into Southbrook Hall on Friday to demand answers from Mr Macfarlane's political successor John McVeigh over the lack of consultation around the four choices.
Athol's Larry Pappin, who was at the meeting, said only a third of residents who attended had received any notifications from the Project Reference Group in charge of talking to the community.
"(Mr McVeigh) asked the audience to raise their hands if they hadn't been contacted and over two thirds put their hands up saying they hadn't received (a letter)," he said.
"He found out about that but he didn't go to any means to rectify it."
A spokesperson for the Australian Rail Track Corporation told The Chronicle yesterday Mr Chester would first pick the 2km-wide corridor option before refining it to the exact route.
Mr Pappin said he wanted the Australian Government to delay a decision so the community could be consulted properly.
"Mr McVeigh did admit that the Government had failed in the community consultation area," he said.
"Why is that project reference group in charge of community consultation?
"They're going to choose a corridor, and refine it down to a 65m width, but who cares?
"We want to have another look at the other process."
Mr McVeigh acknowledged the frustration from landholders on the issue, saying he would return the feedback to Mr Chester.
"The fact is the project has been discussed for many decades and more intensely over the last few years.
"This is an issue I have been pursuing since I was elected to Parliament last year; and since February I have been meeting with people in the Southbrook, Athol and Umbiram areas.
"Never-the-less there were some at the meeting on Friday night that feel they were not aware of the activities of the independent Project Reference Group (PRG) appointed by Transport and Infrastructure Minister Darren Chester in December last year.