First steps towards Inland Rail construction in Queensland

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ATRC) has signed an agreement with  a Brisbane-based joint venture for Inland Rail work in Queensland.

The BHQ joint venture (BHQ JV), comprising of Bielby Holdings, JF Hull Holdings, and QH&M Birt, has entered into a collaborative framework agreement with ARTC for the Northern Civil Works Program.

ARTC Inland Rail Interim Chief Executive, Rebecca Pickering, said the announcement was the culmination of months of work by ARTC, and will ultimately support hundreds of jobs in Queensland.

“Inland Rail is a fast freight backbone that will transform how goods are moved around Australia – it’s also a catalyst for regional employment and economic opportunity,” Ms Pickering said.

“Queensland stands to benefit significantly from Inland Rail, with approximately two-thirds of the total project expenditure allocated for Queensland, and more than 11,800 jobs expected at the peak of construction in 2023-24.

“We’ve already committed contracts to over 630 businesses in Queensland worth over $1.5 billion, and this agreement will bring even more stimulus to the state as it recovers from the economic impacts of the pandemic.”

Ms Pickering said the appointment of a civil works proponent in parallel with environmental planning approvals will allow local businesses to hit the ground running when formal approval is given.

“Major construction will not start until statutory approvals have been received from the Queensland and Australian governments, but with the appointment of a preferred proponent now tells local businesses to get ‘Inland Rail ready’ and start talking with BHQ JV about what the future looks like,” Ms Pickering said.

“This is an extensive program of civil works with more than 160kms of rail corridor within the Border to Gowrie section of Inland Rail, including more than 30 bridges spanning over eleven kilometres, more than 900 concrete culvert cells and the use of over 200 pieces of machinery.

“We will also need a large local workforce to support this part of the project with an estimated 950 workers needed at the peak of construction.

“BHQ will initially be working with ARTC to review reference design and develop construction plans and methodologies ahead of the development of a fully costed proposal for the first of the works packages next year.”

“BHQ JV will now be seeking partnerships with businesses and skilled operators that can support project delivery such as transport operators, fencing, quarries, earthworks and electrical companies.”

Bielby Holdings Managing Director and BHQ JV spokesman, Adam Edwards, said the agreement allowed the joint venture to start engaging with a range of local businesses.

“Bielby, JF Hull and QH&M Birt are honoured to be selected by ARTC as their design and construction partner for the Northern Civil Works Program as part of the broader Inland Rail project,” Mr Edwards said.

“As three proudly Queensland owned businesses, we have a 40-year history of working together on a collaborative basis to deliver exceptional outcomes for both our clients and the communities in which we operate.

“BHQ looks forward to working with local businesses, community groups and indigenous residents and businesses to maximise opportunities for participation in the Inland Rail project.”

BHQ JV is also looking to build skills for future generations of Queensland workers on this once-in-a-generation project.

“We will work with ARTC to enhance the skills and capabilities in the region through both the Inland Rail Skills Academy and BHQ’s own work ready program targeted at school leavers and other new entrants to the construction industry,” Mr Edwards said.

“This is a significant win for local industry and unlocks continued investment in jobs, technology and local manufacturing capability in Queensland, by Queensland companies like our own.

ARTC Inland Rail Director of Pre-Contracts, Rob Storey, said ARTC wanted to be in a place to begin works straight away, once a green light was given to proceed with the project.

“In September last year, we announced a change to our procurement process to make it more collaborative, projects smaller and less complex and provide a broader section of the industry with more opportunity to participate on Inland Rail,” Mr Storey said.

“This was done in line with the Australian Government’s commitment to fast-track investment in critical infrastructure projects and is in response to industry feedback we had received.

“We are working with BHQ to develop works packages as part of this approach, which will enable more suppliers and contractors to get Inland Rail ready.

“This is what industry has told us they want, and it has driven our conversations with them. It will maximise opportunities to participate and de-risk procurement processes, while we engage with government on the environmental approvals and detailed design for this project.”

The Federal Government has also announced $10 million to investigate the viability of extending the Inland Rail line from Toowomba to the Port of Gladstone. 

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, Barnaby Joyce, said extending Inland Rail from Toowoomba could deliver better rail connectivity to the Port of Gladstone and expand access to import and export markets for Australian businesses and industry.

“Inland Rail is transforming regional Australia, driving jobs growth and creating new economic opportunities for communities along the line and our exporting industries,” Mr Joyce said.

“Extending the line to Gladstone would ensure the benefits of this nation-building piece of infrastructure are felt farther and wider, creating more jobs during construction, supporting existing jobs in the region, and better connecting our resources industries and agricultural producers to another major export gateway.

“The connection to Gladstone would be in addition to our existing commitment to take Inland Rail to Brisbane.”

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