Billion-dollar cash injection brings thousands of jobs

A BILLION-dollar cash injection into the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail project is expected to boost the Toowoomba economy and bring thousands of jobs to the region.

The project is expected to be the centrepiece of infrastructure funding announced in tonight's budget.

Two sections near Toowoomba are worth a combined $2.35 billion and construction will create more than 3600 jobs.

The release of environmental guidelines for two key sections of the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail project along with an expected $1 billion bonanza in tonight's Federal Budget means the infrastructure project is going full steam ahead.

In a boost for the project the Queensland Coordinator-General on Saturday released draft terms of reference for an environmental impact statement for the Gowrie to Helidon and Helidon to Calvert sections of the project.

The $11 billion rail line has been called the most important project since the $1.6 billion Toowoomba Second Range Crossing and will stretch 1710km from Melbourne to Brisbane via regional Victoria, central-west New South Wales and Toowoomba.

Tonight, it's widely tipped the Federal Government will commit a further $1 billion towards the project, bringing its total funding so far to nearly $2 billion.

Infrastructure Minister Darren Chester said he could not comment on budget speculation but confirmed the government was "absolutely committed" to the project.

Industry leaders have welcomed funding, including Toowoomba rail hub boss Michelle Reynolds.

The Interlink SQ chief executive officer said industry was confident there would be funding for the vital project in the budget.

She said continued funding for the project would give the business community confidence in the government's commitment.

Michelle Reynolds, CEO InterLink SQ. Wednesday May 4 , 2016.
Michelle Reynolds, CEO InterLink SQ. Wednesday May 4 , 2016. Nev Madsen

Ms Reynolds said the section meandering down the Toowoomba Range to Helidon was key to the whole project and had implications for the Darling Downs economy.

The 26km single-track dual gauge freight line includes a 6.3km tunnel through the Range and will cost $1.35 billion.

About 1800 jobs will be created - about the same as the bypass project - and work could start as early as 2019 with completion expected by 2024.

The 47km section to Calvert will take the line about half way to Brisbane and will cost about $1 billion.

It involves a 1.1km tunnel through the Little Liverpool Range and construction will create about 1800 jobs.

Both sections involve the construction of rail infrastructure, culverts, bridges, viaducts and crossing loops.

Under the terms of the EIS released on Saturday the study must examine threatened species and ecological communities as well as the impact on water resources, transport corridors and community.

Ms Reynolds said the Gowrie to Helidon alignment would connect Interlink SQ to the Inland Rail project and called the EIS release a "great step forward for Inland Rail". "That's the most important part for our region because it links us to the Port of Brisbane."

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