Inland railway.
Inland railway. Mike Richards

'Big ideas' on show at Inland Rail conference

BIG thinking was at the centre of the Inland Rail Conference held at the Empire Theatre over the past two days.

Inland Rail CEO Richard Wankmuller said it had been an action-packed two days.

"I've been able to sit through the conference and see some of the big thinking that's going on," he said.

"You go out into the regions and some of the regional centres that are out there all along the alignment, and you can see some really grand ideas. It's going to completely change the economic capacity of some of the small towns across Australia."

Mr Wankmuller said some of the ideas that were heard at the conference included Toowoomba Mayor Paul Antonio's vision for passenger rail along the Inland Rail route, as well as a new passenger station in Toowoomba.

"It's an example of thinking big and we're glad to see people thinking big," he said.

"Sometimes we have to look at that a little bit harder in terms of what we can afford, but that's part of the future proofing."

A memorandum of understanding was also signed between the University of Southern Queensland and Inland Rail yesterday regarding the formation of a new Inland Rail Skills Academy.

The initiative will form partnerships between organisations to create education, training, skills development and employment opportunities for the communities associated with Inland Rail.

"A major focus will be on building skills so that people and businesses are ready to take part in this once-in-a-generation project and the Inland Rail Skills Academy is one pathway for them to achieve that," Mr Wankmuller said.

"We need to have people ready to undertake work ... the Academy is about facilitating opportunities for those willing to take the step."

The Academy will fund 20 undergraduate scholarships at universities across Australia, including seven at USQ and will also increase STEM opportunities at schools.

The Inland Rail freight network will connect Melbourne to Brisbane via Toowoomba.



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