Australian Government responds to the Inland Rail independent review

inland rail review

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The Australian Government released the findings of Inland Rail’s Independent Review and agreed to the 19 recommendations in full or in principle.

On 7 October 2022, the Australian Government announced the appointment of Dr Kerry Schott AO to lead an independent review to assess the governance and program delivery approaches of the Inland Rail Program.

The independent review was to help inform the future delivery of Inland Rail and considered of the scope, schedule and cost of the program. It also assessed options for the new Inland Rail intermodal terminals to be built in Melbourne and Brisbane, and considered a range of matters outlined in the review Terms of Reference.

The review of Inland Rail led by Dr Kerry Schott AO found major deficiencies in the governance and delivery of Inland Rail. The review also found significant deficiencies in the governance and management of Inland Rail.

It confirmed that Inland Rail is an important project to meet Australia’s growing freight task, improve road safety and to help decarbonise our economy.

However, it also confirmed that the project is running significantly over budget and significantly behind schedule with just over 16% of the 1700km of track completed so far.

As shareholding Ministers of the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC), Dr Kerry Schott AO has been appointed as Acting Chair of ARTC for a period of three months.

Dr Kerry Schott AO is perfectly placed to oversee the initial implementation of the recommendations she made, and the Government accepted. During her three-month tenure, Dr Schott will focus on recruiting a permanent CEO of Inland Rail and addressing the governance and board capability shortcomings her report outlined.

On 6 April 2023 the Australian Government released the findings of the Independent Review of Inland Rail and agreed to the 19 recommendations in full or in principle.

Dr Schott outlines 19 recommendations to improve the delivery of Inland Rail including:

  • Strengthening the governance arrangements and establishing a subsidiary company to deliver Inland Rail
  • Reviewing ARTC’s risk management and reporting systems, with a view to addressing issues experienced with approval processes
  • A further assessment of the scope and cost of Inland Rail, conducted by an independent specialist in conjunction with a cost estimator/value engineer
  • A revised delivery that prioritises sections of Inland Rail that allow revenue to be generated earlier
  • Deciding and developing intermodal terminals in Melbourne and Brisbane, and
  • Maximising regional opportunities available from Inland Rail, including through intermodal opportunities in Parkes and prioritising delivery of the enhanced rail capability to enable double stacking through to Beveridge.

In response to the independent review, the Government is taking prudent and responsible action to get
Inland Rail back on track.

Details of the Government response and the 19 recommendations made can be accessed here.

“Australia’s investment in Inland Rail is critical to help us move more freight as our population grows. Inland Rail can reduce our transport emissions and make our roads safer, but it comes at a significantly higher cost,” says Federal Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government Catherine King.

“ARTC will prioritise the delivery of Inland Rail sections between Beveridge and Parkes, while we continue to affect change across the program, improve governance and risk management,”says Federal Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government Catherine King.

An independent cost estimator and value engineer will be tasked to undertake detailed assurance work to determine the updated cost and schedule for the program.

Cost assessments will be informed from a position of greater certainty on the engineering and design of the route, with the Government acknowledging Beveridge and Truganina in Victoria, and Ebenezer in Queensland, subject to the completion of a business case with the Queensland Government, as the preferred locations for open-access intermodal terminals, with Beveridge and Ebenezer the end points for Inland Rail’s double stacked service offering.

In the near term, work will continue to support completion of existing construction activities and planning works north of Parkes.

New governance arrangements will ensure the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) has the necessary skills and experience to deliver its functions. The Government has already commenced this process, having appointed Mr Peter Duncan AM as the new Chair of the ARTC and Dr Collette Burke as a Non-Executive Director in January 2023. A new substantive chief executive of Inland Rail will also be appointed as soon as possible.

“The Australian Government accepts the recommendations in the Schott Review and acknowledges the lack of confidence with respect to the costs of Inland Rail,” says Federal Minister for Finance, Senator Katy Gallagher.

“We will act sensibly and responsibly to ensure this important project is put back on track,” says Federal Minister for Finance, Senator Katy Gallagher.

The Government will also support Dr Schott’s recommendation to establish a subsidiary board of ARTC to oversee Inland Rail as a separate entity from the day to day work of ARTC.

ARTC has not received an updated the Statement of Expectations since 2018. This will be rectified shortly to give the necessary clarity and guidance to the ARTC Board to effectively deliver the Government’s objectives.

Source: © Commonwealth of Australia | © Commonwealth of Australia | Australian Government

Image source: © Commonwealth of Australia

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