Who is NTR?
National Trunk Rail Pty Ltd (NTR) was established to promote and develop an inland trunk rail line from Melbourne to Brisbane. The group has invested four years and more than $20 million to produce an alternative design to inland rail that is shorter, flatter and straighter than the Australian Rail Track Corporation proposal. NTR combines decades of engineering, economic and policy experience among its members..
Who is on the NTR team?
The NTR team is a group of industry and business leaders with decades of engineering, economic and policy experience. It includes former Thiess Pty Ltd chairman Martin Albrecht AC, former Queensland Rail CEO Vincent O’Rourke AM, former CEO of Queensland Investment Corporation Dr Doug McTaggart and former Director-General of the Queensland Department of Premier and Cabinet Jon Grayson. Our General Manager is Rob Moffat, a senior rail industry manager and engineer.
How are you funded?
NTR is funded by our foundation directors and partner organisations during the pre-feasibility phase. (see PPP funding Q&A below).
Why haven’t we heard about NTR before?
NTR has been pursuing a 21st century solution to Australia’s growing freight demand since 2012, developing a plan for a Brisbane to Melbourne trunk rail line. The time is now right for NTR to increase public awareness of its alternative inland rail solution.
Why are you trying to enter the race now – so late in the process?
NTR has been pursuing a 21st century solution to inland rail since 2012, building on a concept which had its genesis more than 20 years ago. We are not a new player and we are well known to industry and government. Our work to date has brought us to the pre-feasibility stage and we are now ready to move to the next phase. While the public profile of inland rail has been dominated by ARTC, we have consistently maintained that a competitive Public Private Partnership process is the only way to deliver the best result for Australia’s long-term future.
How much work have you actually done on your proposal?
NTR has invested four years and more than $20 million to research the best design for a 21st century inland trunk rail. The work we have done so far has us at prefeasibility stage. We are now ready for the next phase.
Why is the NTR proposal better than what ARTC is exploring?
ARTC is constrained by capital and the political process. In 2010, the cost of the ARTC inland rail proposal was estimated at $4.7 billion. This has now increased to a publicly declared figure of $10.7 billion (even with its significant deficiencies in scope). Based on the ARTC’s last disclosed figures, that leaves an approximate $10 billion gap between what the federal government has committed and what the project requires.
NTR’s model is focused on providing the best and most efficient solution for inland rail. It takes an integrated “whole of supply chain” approach, that is well beyond the Government’s under-funded ARTC proposal, and delivers a shorter, flatter, straighter (and faster) outcome. Inland rail is a once-in-a-generation project that should be built to a standard, not a budget – delivering benefits to everyone.
Are you putting the project at risk and creating delay by trying to get the Federal Government to change its process?
There is no funding for the construction of inland rail in the Federal Government forward estimates, so there is nothing to delay. NTR believes that a competitive PPP process substantially increases the likelihood of earlier completion of inland rail. This project has been on the drawing books for generations so a short amount of time now to make sure Australia gets it right will be time well spent.
If the government agreed to a PPP process, will you actually be able to raise the funding?
The private sector has an appetite for infrastructure investment and our view is that the private sector is best placed to largely fund and build large infrastructure. Commentators have noted that there is no shortage of infrastructure investors in Australia and overseas, but there is a lack of suitable projects to attract those funds.
How does the Australian community/taxpayer benefit from a PPP?
A Public Private Partnership process would reduce the amount of funding required from taxpayers and the community while at the same time bringing a higher level of innovation and experience to the project.
Would you expect other proponents to come forward in a PPP process?
There are already two proponents for inland rail – NTR and ARTC. A competitive PPP process is all about obtaining the best solution and NTR is prepared and willing to participate. Others also may be interested. NTR has put in four years of work on this project already and is confident that our proposal is a true 21st century solution that will set new standards for long haul freight efficiency and reliability.
Won’t there be less certainty with your proposal than if ARTC delivers inland rail?
Private sector investors apply a rigorous process of scrutiny and investigation for such large infrastructure projects before they commit funding, thereby increasing certainty for all parties. We also note that the future of ARTC is uncertain as it is under review and there is a possibility that it may be privatised.
The Government has already done a lot of work on inland rail so won’t a change this late in the process be a setback?
The small amount of funding the Government has committed to date is essentially a “look see” at inland rail and not a commitment to funding a project. There is no Federal Government funding to build inland rail in future budgets, so there is nothing to set back. NTR has been working on the best inland trunk rail solution since 2012 and invested its own funds to design a shorter, flatter and straighter rail line than the ARTC proposal. Under a competitive PPP process, inland rail could be delivered within six years of approvals – faster than otherwise possible.
Is NTR simply attacking the current proposal to further its own case to build inland rail?
NTR is advocating for a competitive PPP process, which would open inland rail to other proponents, including ARTC. We are not seeking special treatment, we are calling for the Australian, Victorian, NSW and Queensland Governments to open up inland rail to a competitive PPP process which will deliver a better and more efficient solution and which requires all proponents to disclose the details and costings of their proposals.