Australian inland rail expressway: August 1999 progress report

In the century since Federation, no Australian Government has ever had a plan for the balanced development of Australia. They allowed our population to crowd into a few cities and they forgot about the Inland, causing its lifeblood to ebb away. A prime example of many lost opportunities caused by the absence of planning has been the failure to build a fast, efficient, economical railway from south to north, an almost total lack of recognition that most of the population and wealth of the world lies to our north. The tale of neglect actually begins in 1887 when a railway from Melbourne to the Gulf of Carpentaria was first planned, roughly following the Burke and Wills route. It was a private enterprise initiative and it foundered through a total lack of co-operation amongst the three States through which it was to pass. This, combined with the economic recession of 1893, was sufficient to put it on the back burner for fifty years. In 1935, a British Beef Consortium offered to build a railway from Bourke to Darwin, free of cost, in return for extensive grazing rights in the Northern Territory, but the Lyons Government declined their offer. A few years later in 1942, General Douglas Macarthur proposed to build a rail link from Cloncurry to Darwin for the defence of Australia. Even though he offered to build it free of charge to Australia using American Steel and Negro Labour, it was rejected by the Government of the day. A Victorian, Sir Harold Clapp, took it up again in 1949. He actually persuaded the Chifley Government to agree to build a defence railway from Melbourne to Darwin via Bourke, Longreach and Cloncurry and the Cabinet passed a minute authorising its detailed planning. But, the initiative lapsed when Chifley lost the 1949 Election and the States would not co-operate with the new Government. The Snowy Mountains Project gained its life as an alternative. In the 1960's, Sir Garfield Barwick took it up, but the Holt Government declined to take it any further. They didn't think it was important to the development of Australia. In the 1980's, two eminent engineers, Dr Ken Davidson of Toowoomba and Professor Lance Endersbee of Melbourne, working separately, revived the concept. Subsequently, Ross Miller, then Mayor of Toowoomba, and Barry Donaldson of the Progressive Rail Association in Southern New South Wales, did extensive work on it. But, again, no governments were prepared to put their weight behind it. Then, in November 1996, a group of business leaders led by Everald Compton of Brisbane, met in Sydney and decided to undertake the project using private capital. Their company, Australian Transport and Energy Corridor Ltd (ATEC), now has the support of the Governments of Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, Northern Territory and the Commonwealth, as well as the support of the Opposition in all of those five Parliaments.

Media Info

  • Pagination: 9p. ; PDF
  • Monograph Title: Permanent Way Institution (PWI) NSW, 1999 annual convention

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01711434
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Source Agency: ARRB
  • Files: ATRI
  • Created Date: Jul 19 2019 2:25PM