Nationals MPs attack each other over inland rail route

Nationals MPs have accused one of their own of stuffing up the inland rail project.
Nationals MPs have accused one of their own of stuffing up the inland rail project.

ANGRY Queensland Nationals have sensationally accused one of their own Cabinet ministers of stuffing up the multibillion-dollar Melbourne to Brisbane inland rail project and have demanded a "more transparent process".

In a growing show of defiance by Queensland MPs, eight Nationals backbenchers yesterday signed a letter demanding Infrastructure Minister Darren Chester make a public statement that backs down on the route he announced just weeks ago.

Mr Chester, who is a Nationals MP, was in his office when he faced an expletive-laden assessment of his decision to choose a questionable route through Queensland that could flood properties.

The correspondence was sparked after the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Senate Estimates Committee was told yesterday that proper assessments had not been done.

In September, Mr Chester said the Government would pursue a Melbourne to Brisbane inland rail route through Millmerran, Brookstead and Southbrook on to Wellcamp and through to Charlton.

But independent modelling sourced by Maranoa MP David Littleproud found the route could be seriously problematic for farmers and taxpayers.

David Littleproud.
David Littleproud.

There are fears the corridor could cause an inland lake, creating significant problems for farmers and landholders. There are also questions as to how much it will cost to build an elevated rail track 12.5km across the Condamine floodplain.

It comes as Inland Rail Unit acting executive director Richard Wood and Australian Rail Track Corporation John Fullerton told Estimates hearings yesterday that some of the decisions for the rail corridor were made on high-level assumptions and not on detailed costings.

The letter to Mr Chester from Nationals MPs, and obtained by The Courier-Mail, strongly urges the Minster to backdown on the chosen route.

"As a consequence of the evidence provided this morning, we are now requesting you to make a public statement, which confirms that the Wellcamp/Charlton alignment may not be the final corridor,'' it said.

"In addition, we request that a more transparent process in determining this corridor be created whereby the community has access to all assessment reports, together with a mechanism for the community to raise questions about those reports."

Darren Chester.
Darren Chester.

The latest backlash reveals a growing intolerance between the LNP, particularly the Nationals, and their Government, which they view as too southern-centric.

Mr Chester said the Nationals were proud to be part of a Coalition Government and that most people along the route were excited about the project.

"They are looking forward to the social and economic benefits for their community and our nation," Mr Chester said.

He said the Yelarbon to Gowrie section of the project would be subject to an environmental impact statement that would take up to two years and provide "many opportunities for consultation and engagement with affected landowners".

Topics:  darren chester editors picks inland rail national party

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