The troubled Inland Rail freight transport infrastructure project may soon be heading in the right direction after the government started implementing some of the key recommendations from a major review of the project.
The report by Dr Kerry Schott entitled The Delivery of Inland Rail: An Independent Review was published in April. It found that the scale and complexity of the project to build an inland rail corridor between Melbourne and Brisbane had been grossly underestimated, and that the projected costs had almost doubled from $16.4 billion to $31.4 billion.
The report made a total of 19 major recommendations, all of which the government has said it will carry out. These include addressing the skills requirements of the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) board; filling the position of chief executive of Inland Rail; ensuring that ARTC has governance arrangements to deliver the project; and conducting a review of the government’s statement of expectations.
On 7 July, the government announced that two of these recommendations are being addressed with the release of an interim Statement of Expectations, and that a new board had been appointed by the ARTC to govern the project through a newly established subsidiary, Inland Rail Pty Ltd.
Briefly, the interim Statement of Expectations document lays out the Government’s objectives for the ARTC, including service expectations for Inland Rail, the establishment of the subsidiary, a staged approach to the project, and its expectations for the “highest standards” of transparency, governance and accountability,
“We are making good on our commitment to act on the recommendations of the Independent Review of Inland Rail,” Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government Minister Catherine King said in a release.
“The establishment of Inland Rail Pty Ltd and the updated Statement of Expectations, are examples of this Government getting on with the job to refresh the approach to delivering Inland Rail ensure it is adequately funded and resourced,” she added.
“I am confident in the direction provided by the Statement of Expectations and in the chosen Inland Rail Pty Ltd board members, who will bring valuable industry insights and expertise to ensure the Albanese Government delivers on its commitments to Inland Rail.”
The release said the new board would ensure Inland Rail Pty Ltd has the necessary expertise and independent oversight required to deliver on the objectives of Inland Rail.
The six-member board includes the chair of ARTC – currently Dr Schott, who is acting in the role – as a non-executive director, while the government says the members have been chosen for their skills, qualifications, knowledge and experience in the delivery of nationally significant freight infrastructure projects.
The board will comprise chair Robert Rust, deputy chair Louise Thurgood, and board members Erin Flaherty, James Cain and Vivienne King.
Mark Campbell will be stepping down from his roles of managing director and CEO of ARTC at the end of July, while Dr Schott will remain as acting chair until Peter Duncan resumes the role.
“The Government has established a dedicated subsidiary company with an experienced and skilled board of directors to ensure Inland Rail is appropriately managed,” Finance Minister Katy Gallagher said.
“The Government’s updated Statement of Expectations brings ARTC and Inland Rail in line with highest standards of governance, transparency and accountability for corporate and government-owned entities”.