After a scathing review revealing cost blowouts and delays led the federal government to reduce the scope of the Inland Rail project, member for Parkes Mark Coulton has said local businesses are being "left in the dark" about the project's future in the region.
"The Inland Rail has been a huge boon for regional NSW, but concerns are now growing that projects are stalling under the Labor Government," Mr Coulton said.
"Businesses in my electorate have geared up for ongoing work to deliver the Inland Rail; investments that have now been rendered uncertain by the Government."
Earlier this week, Mr Coulton and shadow transport minister Bridget McKenzie visited a completed section of the Inland Rail track at Narwonnah near Narromine.
Mr Coulton said, so far, more than $290 million has been invested in local businesses through the project, with 1,860 people employed on each of the Parkes to Narromine and Narrabri to North Star stretches of track.
Senator McKenzie echoed Mr Coulton's concerns about the impact delaying progress on the track would have on the local economy.
She is also calling on the government to restore road funding it cut from the October budget which was intended to support transport connections and road safety along the Inland Rail route.
"Dr Schott's report strongly supports the delivery of the Inland Rail and has provided the Albanese government with a blueprint on how to proceed with the project," she said.
"The prime minister must now see the importance of this critically needed road safety funding to support the nation-building Inland Rail project and reinstate the $218 million in cut and delayed funding."
The federal government's October budget cuts included $206.8 million in cuts this term for grade separations to make road and rail connections safer, as well as $14.6 million from road upgrades to connections to the Newell, Oxley and Castlereagh highways at Gilgandra.
The site visit follows the federal government's response to a damning report led by former Energy Security Board chairperson Dr Kerry Schott which revealed multi-million-dollar cost blow-outs and other major problems such as delays, environmental challenges and inexperienced project managers.
Transport and infrastructure minister Catherine King said the government would be accepting all of the report's 19 major recommendations, including one to refocus on completing the Melbourne to Parkes stretch of the 1700 kilometre line before working on other sections.
Defending the project to the media after the report's release, Mr Coulton said the report supported the need for the line and should not be used to disparage the work which has already been completed.
"Nowhere in the report does it say there isn't a need for Inland Rail and nowhere does it criticise or suggest the route through my electorate is in the wrong place or has been mismanaged," he said.
"I don't want to see this report used as an opportunity to damn the work that's been done. I think the people that have worked on this project in my electorate should be very proud of what they've done."
During their site visit, Senator McKenzie and Mr Coulton also met with the Gilgandra Shire Council and Narromine Shire Council to speak with them about their concerns regarding the delays.
Narromine mayor Craig Davies and general manager Jane Redden noted the centrality of Narromine on the Inland Rail line, with the site to operate as a refuelling station and service point. They said delays to the project would negatively impact the ability of council and local landholders to make plans about their futures, causing renewed anxiety.
Mayor Doug Batten and general manager David Neeves of Gilgandra Shire Council also expressed concern about losing momentum on the project.
Senator McKenzie said the Parkes to Narromine section of Inland Rail - which is in operation - has already proved its value in being instrumental to ensuring last summer's harvest was able to reach ports despite widespread flooding.
"This compares with stalled progress in both Queensland and Victoria where the Labor state governments stymied progress on this critically important project which is expected to take 200,000 trucks off our roads and remove 750,000 tonnes of CO2 per year," she said.
"Completing the Inland Rail is essential to lowering the emissions of the transport sector."
"This new infrastructure is impressive to see firsthand in person and is already making a positive impact."
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