While there has been plenty of noise locally about changing the proposed route of the Inland Rail near Narrabri there have been landholders in line of the alternate route quietly watching but not engaging, because the previous federal government was quite clear it was not shifting it. With a change in government, a review is likely, not just for the Narrabri alignment, but for the whole project. With that said, it’s time the landholders on the alternate route voiced their concerns locally.


I’m no engineer or surveyor but I’ll raise a few points. Part of the argument for shifting the line west is to lessen the impact of flooding on Narrabri. While the November 2021 flooding is still fresh in our memory, you’ll recall the flood breaks into six streams on the Narrabri floodplain simultaneously passing under the six bridges along the Newell Highway through Narrabri.

The cumulative width of the water passing under those six bridges is less than 800m. I fail to understand how a 4500m long bridge is going to have an impact on flooding levels in Narrabri that the current infrastructure doesn’t already have. Also, the claim of increased flooding should be quantified and identify where exactly in the flood modelling it will occur in the Narrabri township. Thus far this has not been articulated by the professionals within the concerned residents group and should be.

Project cost

There is a claim of a cost saving of a shorter raised bridge across the floodplain on the alternate route, 3.3km vs 4.9km. Satellite imagery from the November 27, 2021, flood show that where the alternate route crossed the floodplain the width of the flooding on the floodplain is 4.5km.

To realign the route at this late stage would require the whole approval process around Narrabri to begin again from the start, delaying the operation of the whole project by three years or more. Ultimately any cost savings, if there are any, would be swallowed by having to start again. Local construction contractors ready to begin work on this project would have idle assets sitting and local employment opportunities missed, this is a cost impact to the Narrabri community that deserves consideration.

The construction of the line will immediately pour millions of dollars into the local economy. To change the alignment will create a minimum three-year delay to this potential windfall for local businesses.

Level crossings

The current proposed route has no impact on traffic post construction, with the raised rail bridge passing over Yarrie Lake Rd and the Kamilaroi Highway on either end. The alternate route would likely mean a level crossing on Yarrie Lake Rd and Culgoora Rd on the southern side of the river and another across Bald Hill Rd on the northern side. We can envisage an overpass on the Kamilaroi Highway as it comes off the raised bridge across the floodplain.

With the SAP in mind and the Inland Port to be constructed, with road access to come from either/or Yarrie Lake Rd and Culgoora Rd, this would be a permanent impediment to traffic flow accessing the site from the west. But more so of concern is the delay in response times for emergency services responding to events west of the line.

Additionally, there is a considerable and increasing volume of traffic that uses Yarrie Lake, Culgoora and Bald Hill roads for both
residential access and accessing current and future markets that would be impacted for the life of the rail line. Case in point – right now all trucks 15-tonne or more are using Culgoora Rd right now due to the failing Spring Creek bridge on the Kamilaroi Highway.

Agricultural land impact

Agricultural production has been the economic life blood of the shire since the establishment of Narrabri and will always continue to be. While Inland Rail greenfield sites have negatively impacted farms in other regions this is not the case in Narrabri, yet. The current proposed alignment has the least impact on commercial farming operations, not zero, but the least. The alternate route will cross significantly more agricultural land and cause significant degradation to the productivity of those agricultural businesses affected.

Matt Norrie, vice chair, NSW Farmers Narrabri branch

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