The proposed corridor for the Inland Rail between Narromine and Narrabri has been refined down to a narrower width, so that landowners and other stakeholders can more easily identify the impacted areas.
Public information sessions being held this week in Narrabri (Monday 9 March), Baradine (Tuesday), Gilgandra (Wednesday), Curban (Thursday) and Narromine (Friday) are set to reveal much more detail than has previously been available.
“We used to have a study area up to 5 kilometres wide where we looked for the best place to put the line,” said Australian Rail Track Corporation’s Director of Engagement, Environment and Property Rebecca Pickering. “The new Focused Area of Investigation is now about 250 metres wide which gives a much clearer picture.”
Ms Pickering said that the narrower corridor has now been mapped along the entire 300 kilometres of the greenfield section which traverses the Narromine, Gilgandra, Coonamble, Warrumbungle and Narrabri local government areas.
“Previously there were 330 landowners where the corridor sat across their properties in various ways,” Ms Pickering said.
“Now we’re down to 140 properties and 117 owners.”
ARTC staff have been meeting one on one with all those landowners over the past few months to get their input into where to put the line.
“So far we’ve met with 99 people,” Ms Pickering said.
“As you’d expect some of those meetings can go for several hours.”
“Some just want to see the maps and there are a sub-set who don’t want to meet with us,” she said.
Ms Pickering says the location of the seven passing loops, with each loop roughly 2.2 kilometres long, has also been discussed with affected landowners.
“The passing loops have been reasonably locked in and have been advised to the relevant landowners,” said Ms Pickering. “So they’re all aware that on some properties there will be two tracks.”
“They will also be visible on the maps at the meetings this week,” she said.
Also on show will be the type of crossings or ‘road/rail interface’ planned for each road crossed along the alignment.
“It will be made clear whether it is a grade separation (road over rail or rail over road), an active crossing with boom gates and lights, or a passive crossing with signs and warnings on the approaches,” Ms Pickering said.
The three different modes are determined by using recognised Australian standards based on the volume of train and road traffic, the type of road traffic to determine the level of risk and appropriate management.
Feedback from those attending will be used to ‘test’ the results of the ARTC’s research and planning, in particular the measures that might be needed to mitigate any negative impacts.
Multiple staff will also be on site to discuss social impact assessments, which are nearing finalisation.
Ms Pickering says the results are currently being fed back to councils, community groups and other stakeholders for checking.
“The Social Impact Assessment will be part of the meetings this week, looking at the impacts and opportunities of the project,” Ms Pickering said.
Community members are also able to ask their own questions and it is expected that water use and biosecurity issues during the Inland Rail construction will be hot topics, as well as what sort of opportunities will be available for employment and supply contracts in communities within striking distance of the Inland Rail.
The Environmental Impact Statement, which includes the Social Impact Statement, is expected to go on public exhibition later this year or in the first quarter of 2021.
“The next round of community consultation will be towards the end of the year when the EIS is completed,” Ms Pickering said. “But if questions or concerns arise before then there’s nothing to stop us coming out prior to that.”