A significant intermodal rail freight hub for Tamworth to benefit northern farmers is all but set to go ahead as Tamworth Regional Council awaits the state budget next week.
A lot is at stake on the intermodal rail hub - millions of dollars in hoped for private investment, freight savings for farmers and processors and up to 5000 jobs over 20 years.
It all depends on a $9m state government investment on 6km of the disused ‘Barraba’ railway track.
Tamworth mayor Col Murray says he will be very disappointed if the government doesn’t back the hub with the railway investment in the budget. The Government had already indicated it wants to back Tamworth as an international airfreight hub and talks are underway to extend Tamworth airport’s main runway.
But Mr Murray says the rail intermodal hub is a more pressing need for the economy, with huge flow-on effects for decades.
The council has already bought 256ha of industrial-zoned land for the hub at Glen Artney and is in talks with private investors to build the complex.
The hub is also supported by Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson and $1m was given to the TRC to complete an assessment study. The study found there were “no red flags” on the project going ahead. An existing intermodal hub in Tamworth was assessed to be far too small.
Mr Murray says that there are two new abattoir projects (beef and lamb) on the drawing boards if the hub goes ahead to already add to the three major meat works in Tamworth. Thomas Foods International, a big supporter of the Tamworth economy, is already processing about 10,000 lambs a day in Tamworth, Mr Murray said.
“The hub and the upgrading of the railway line are the keystones to our growth,” Mr Murray said.
“Rail delivers greater efficiencies. Containers are leaving Tamworth on road only three-quarters full because of truck weight restrictions. Those containers don’t get refilled so ships are leaving port with export goods under weight as well.
“With a rail freight system, those containers can be filled up and that means ships leave port at full capacity. There are significant savings there.”
TRC estimates the cost of upgrading the railway line at between $8m and $9m. It would involve major flood-proof works on the line and about four boom-gate crossings.
“We would be quite upset if the funding is not in the budget,” Mr Murray said.
“We are reasonably confident. We have talked all the pros and cons through and we just need the big tick.”
A large amount of timber products would also go on the rail, Mr Murray said. The timber is taken from Forestry Corporation plantations near Nundle and at the moment the logs are sent to Sandgate in Newcastle. A freight line would deliver it straight to Sydney, saving large freight and handling costs.
Last month, NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro announced regional NSW would be the big winners in the state budget, promising to get all the nuts and bolts ready to “turbocharge” regional centres.
The Federal Government’s approval for the construction of the $8.6bn inland rail project is also set to give the regions a massive economic boost.