Forbes in focus as feasibility studies for Inland Rail progress

Forbes’ rail bridges were under inspection this week in preparation for Inland Rail construction.

Teams were in Forbes to look at the line and two bridge crossings in particular – Bathurst Street and Whyndam Avenue – as part of feasibility studies for the $8.5 billion project. 

Inland Rail will complete the ‘spine’ of the national freight network between Melbourne and Brisbane via regional Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. 

It’s about taking produce from the farm gate to the Asian plate, said Federal Member for Riverina Michael McCormack who visited the Forbes work site on Wednesday.

“This is an important piece of the supply chain and you will see more people in orange vests,” Mr McCormack said.

“The work has begun.” 

Mr McCormack met with representatives from ARTC and Lycopodium – the company carrying out the feasibility design work - as well as cultural heritage, environmental structural and technical experts.

In Forbes, they were looking at options to open up the historic Bathurst Street bridge for freight trains and double-stacked containers the Inland Rail will accommodate.

The scope included the history of the site as well as the ecology of the river it crosses. 

“Studies that begin today include air quality and vibrations surveys; investigations into existing structures; ecological surveys to identify any flora and fauna; and cultural heritage surveys,” Mr McCormack said.

“This bridge was built in 1913 for a steam locomotion and two carriages,” project manager, Stokinbingal to Parkes, Cameron Simpkins explained.

Senior Project manager for Inland Rail Victoria and NSW Dinesh Batra said this is about “future proofing” the rail for the next 100 years and beyond.

The work happening this week will provide input to get the line “construction ready” for Inland Rail.

At this stage it’s hoped construction will start 2021 with the first trains running in 2025.

The existing track between Stockinbingal and Parkes is suitable for carrying freight but some parts require upgrades to enable double-stack freight trains.

It may require lowering or shifting the track, raising or widening the bridges or even replacing the bridges.

To ensure safety, some signalling structures, power poles and other infrastructure will also be moved further away from the track.