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Planning an Inland Port

By Tom Richman - posted Wednesday, 13 June 2007

An Inland Port will relieve facilities at the Port of Brisbane, but it requires much thought and planning.

State Government must get ready to provide South East Queensland's logistics users with a state of the art “Inland Port” within the next 10-15 years if they’re to survive constantly escalating time and availability demands in and around the Port of Brisbane, as well as along the supply chain that radiates from it.

Furthermore, not to commit to this project will eventually have a devastating impact on the Port of Brisbane’s ability to maintain cost competitiveness with counterparts in other states, many of which are well along the way to building their own Inland Ports ... even, ironically, one being developed in New South Wales by Queensland Rail.


Factors exacerbating this potential crisis include the possibility that the Acacia Ridge rail marshalling yard will reach its use by date in 7-10 years and the long mooted Inland Rail Link from Melbourne may happen sooner than anticipated. Meanwhile, truck traffic to and from the Port will rise exponentially without such a facility and curtail not only profitability, but force road transporters to suffer the consequences of residential encroachment on their speed and safety.

What is an Inland Port and what are its requirements?

Conceptually, an Inland (or dry) Port is a parcel large enough to incorporate a so-called Intermodal Transport Hub with the infrastructure to provide efficient connectivity between trains, trucks and the containers they carry. This facility would complement a main seaport but be far enough away from built up areas to be free of issues that might inhibit operations or create bottlenecks.

It must include adequate crane lift capability, have good access to major arterials, be conveniently situated near the markets it services, and, so it can move goods over a 24-hour, 7-day cycle, leave an adequate buffer between any of its operations and residential neighbourhoods.

Needless to say, it is required to be on a standard or dual gauge rail line going in both directions, have central rail sidings of at least 2km, to allow for the more profitable 1,800m trains, preferably double stacked, and provide for Super B Doubles, which can carry two 40-foot containers (and are increasingly the size of choice at, for example, Fishermans Island). The same for on-site B Triples, which require hardened streets and floors to carry their extra weight as well as space for the wide turning areas they need.

The Inland Port should also feature integrated import-export facilities with Customs and AQIS services, an empty container pool, and covered warehousing and open access to allow its use by anyone, not just the big operators. A rail or truck repair and maintenance facility would be another advantage.

Meanwhile, and in consideration of environmental realities, the location must be as close as possible to its customer base to minimise greenhouse gas emissions, fuel usage and turn around times.


While sites at Purga and Bromelton have been, or are, under consideration by the State Government as an Inland Port, their travel distance from the main population corridor along the eastern seaboard makes them environmentally problematic vis à vis truck borne CO2 emissions. As well they are further, and more expensively, away from customers or warehouses ... shortfalls that makes closer alternatives worthy of inspection.

Greenbank as the best choice for an Inland Port

With this in mind, we propose that Greenbank’s 4,500ha military training area in Brisbane’s southside could easily situate an Inland Port (comprising an Intermodal Transport Hub) on 600ha to 800ha of its comparatively flat land along and above Oxley Creek and parallel to the Brisbane-Sydney standard rail line.

The Department of Defence-owned site is 1/2 to 1/3 closer to the Port of Brisbane than its two competitors, meaning trucks using this facility would use less fuel and therefore emit fewer pollutants on their way to various distribution centres, while, at the same time, reduce the need to clog up streets accessing the Port of Brisbane.

Ideally, the Inland Port and its Hub would provide two parallel tracks for through traffic, two more for loading and unloading, the latter with sidings of at least 2km (and possibly just in time for the 20-year long track upgrades for the Sydney to Brisbane line - earmarked to start in 2009).

Other features would include state of the art freight handling involving unfettered truck access to each rail siding, a wide as necessary turn around apron, as well as access to massive container storage area to the rear, one that will be able to stow the hundreds of thousands of empty extras otherwise expensively shipped to the Port, Goondiwindi, Townsville, or, when they’re really overflowing, back to Asia. Containers stored here would be able to be stacked more than five high because they wouldn’t be exposed to the intense winds that so often hit the Port of Brisbane from Moreton Bay.

There would be enough space for adequate logistics oriented warehouses as well as a the possibility of a train and truck washdown area using water harvested from roof surfaces. It could also have solar panels (possibly the sliver cells offered by Origin Energy, where, it’s believed, operators would get payback in five to seven years, possibly more if they resold excess electricity back into the grid).

In addition, freight train users like QR, Toll, and so on, would be able to set up engineering and maintenance shops to service their rolling stock, an option that would necessitate spur track and shunting equipment. Truck users might be able to enjoy analogous facilities. Moreover, as a greenfields area, it would be able to implement any functional or process requirements deemed necessary, both at the onset and through a 100-year horizon.

Train and truck users would appreciate the fact that it’s near the Logan Motorway and the Brisbane-Sydney standard gauge railway line, may be easily connected with any future rail link from Toowoomba, and is relatively close to the existing Acacia Ridge rail marshalling yards: as well as all the major road distribution networks, both present and upcoming.

For example, the extension of the Centenary Highway will eventually allow traffic to bypass Ipswich and ultimately create a link across to the Mt Lindsay Highway, which, in turn, would fit in with the Southern Infrastructure Corridor connecting Ebenezer and Purga through to Yatala, albeit in 20-25 years. An additional plus is the potential for Greenbank to be connected by rail to the Adelaide-Darwin line, one that could then be used by, among other things, the Army for quickly shuttling ordnance, or even combat related vehicles, up north in case of a national emergency.

The unused hectares and the pristine scrub they hold (thanks to the Army) would provide more than a sufficient amount of space around its perimeter for buffers between it and a very politically active rural residential community to the south and east, some of which could be turned into a regional park.

Meanwhile where exactly is Greenbank and how is it being used now?

The Army first began using Greenbank for military operations around 1952 in an area situated east of Springfield and bound on the west by Centenary Highway, Johnson's Road in the north, Stapylton Road and the Sydney-Brisbane railway in the east and the Springfield Beaudesert Road in the south.

It is traversed by two main creek systems, Oxley Creek in the east and Blunder Creek in the west. Oxley Creek runs through the area from south to north and provides the largest flat area on the site and is probably the best water source. Blunder Creek commences in the south-west corner of the site and flows generally north-east. The elevations of the area range from 25m at the northern boundary on Oxley Creek to 90m near the site's western boundary. The average elevation is about 35 to 45 metres, while the topography has been providing the military with an undulating terrain for training.

The training component is conveniently located, being about 1 to 1.5 hours drive equidistant to Enoggera, Canungra and Amberley military bases. The site contains a receiving and stores area off Woogaru Street in the north-west, a barracks area in the south-east , several small arms ranges and field training areas. It does not appear to have been damaged by tracked vehicles such as tanks or APCs.

Its location provides a potential range of access points, however the primary one is via Woogaru Street in the north western corner and off the Springfield-Greenbank Road in the south-east. There is a well constructed (sealed) circular road system on the site as well as perimeter fire trails. Further, it is secured by a 2m high chain wire fence around the perimeter.

The natural forest cover is of medium density, has probably been logged and contains remnant vegetation areas of significance. This large forested area is no doubt a refuge for many flora and fauna species (including feral horses) in the area, while Oxley Creek may have several small wetland areas. As a relatively underdeveloped precinct, there may be native title and or areas of aboriginal cultural significance on the site.

Given the 50-odd years use of the site for military purposes, it can be assumed that certain areas will be contaminated by expended and unexploded ordnance and must be remediated. There’s also some potential flooding along the segment of Oxley Creek that traverses the proposed Hub site, but we believe any problems relating to this concern can be obviated by underground channelling and or rerouting.

Alternative military training areas ready for the Army’s consideration

Taking the Department of Defence at face value when one of its spokesmen told us they would consider a move if a replacement was possible, we have found several alternative military training areas south and southwest of Greenbank, south of the SE Queensland urban footprint and the proposed south-west transport corridor lying between Ipswich Boonah Road in the west and the Brisbane Sydney railway line in the east - one north of Mt Flinders and the others south and east of Mt Flinders. Their land areas are about 2,000ha to 3,000ha each.

They’re more rugged than Greenbank and provide a greater variety of vegetation cover, ranging from open grass land to savannah and medium density eucalypt forest. These areas do not appear to be as well watered as Greenbank and they are 35km to 45km from the centre of Brisbane, compared to the 25km for Greenbank. However, they can be readily accessed by a number of routes and entry points from Enoggera, Amberley and Canungra via existing highways, local roads and vehicle tracks.

Each area has enough size and features to suit the same range of military activities that Greenbank does presently, including the ability to provide a buffer in anticipation of future civilian development.

Where exactly are these alternative sites?

For the sake of protocol, and to neutralise the possibility of land speculation, we won’t be divulging this detail until asked to do so by the Army and or other relevant Government agencies.

If the Army agrees to relocate what happens next?

Should this occur and the Army finds our proposal to its liking, a number of options present themselves: it could relocate en toto to one of these alternative sites, or keep the new site for training, while still storing ordnance and other materials within a buffered portion of the original site, which could also be used for military related logistics.

Whatever the mode of finance and title, the Inland Port should be developed under a statutory authority like the Port of Brisbane, with various levels of government becoming active stakeholders (including representatives from Logan and Beaudesert Shires as well as Ipswich City, in whose jurisdictions the site lies). This body would be guided by the SEQ Regional Plan and seek input from pertinent ministries, like Queensland Rail, and industry bodies such as the Australian Trucking Association and the Transport Workers Union.

Although the Inland Port would be a State Government responsibility, the required infrastructure, ongoing upgrades as well as maintenance should primarily be funded by a Federal Government convinced the project is of national importance, with any difference to come from users, both public and private.

Meanwhile, the Army would be responsible for the new training area, including access, maintenance and environmental issues, though considering how well it treated Greenbank, this shouldn’t be a problem.

All we have to do now is convince the Department of Defence that our alternative sites are worthy of consideration. Stay tuned.

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About the Author

Tom Richman, writes and edits the King's Counsel, a biannual newsletter of King & Co Property Consultants. He holds a BA, MA and M. Phil (Oxon) and is a member of the Property Council of Australia (QLD), the Infrastructure Association of Queensland as well as the Brisbane Development Association.

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