The managers of the 126km Inland Rail PPP have ramped up talks with contractors and investors as they target a call for expressions of interest in the fourth quarter of this year.
The Australian Rail Track Corporation’s (ARTC) newly installed chief executive for Inland Rail, Richard Wankmuller, said they are looking to launch an EOI process by October or November with an RFP deadline during 2019 and a preferred bidder likely at the end of that year.
“We are looking to get to financial close quite quickly – around mid to late 2020 – and we are interested in talking to investors and contractors now,” Wankmuller told Inframation on the sidelines of the AFR National Infrastructure Summit.
He said the project was very complex and included lengthy tunnels and grade changes and would require a lot of consultation with industry. “There are really some things we can learn from industry,” he said.
ARTC began industry briefings in May and these will run until October.
It had been expected to reveal further timing on the PPP late in 2017, but since then there have been two federal infrastructure minister changes.
It also only just appointed a project director for the PPP, Tony Lubofsky, in April.
The PPP aspect of Inland Rail involves three projects. These are: from Gowrie Junction near Toowoomba (about 150km west of Brisbane’s city centre) to Helidon; Helidon to Calvert; and Calvert to Kagaru (about 60km south of Brisbane).
In total it includes about 9km of tunnels, with the 6.38km of that through ranges between Gowrie and Helidon.
The federal and Queensland governments are also looking into an extension of Inland Rail to the Port of Brisbane from its present planned terminus at the Acacia Ridge freight terminal in Brisbane’s southern suburbs.
Once complete, the full AUD 10bn (USD 7.6bn) Inland Rail project will cover 1,700km from Melbourne to Brisbane and is expected to cut average freight travel time between the two centres to less than 24 hours from 33 hours.
By 2050 it will shift the balance of freight in favour of rail in Australia. At the moment about 30% of freight travels by rail, with the rest by trucks. The project will single-handedly shift this to 62% rail by then, Wankmuller said.
There will be 13 separate projects to build the line. At the moment ARTC has spent about AUD 253m on 140 contracts. He said this amount will double in the next three months.