Fifteen years ago, when Don McDonald and I announced our plan to build an Inland Railway through eastern Australia, we naively thought that governments would rush to back us.
None of them did for the first decade, but we finally got permission to proceed with the first two sections — the Surat Basin Railway from Toowoomba to Gladstone and the Border Railway from Toowoomba to Moree.
The company that we established to spearhead both of these projects, ATEC, is grateful to Queensland Premier, Anna Bligh, for her visionary attitude to both projects.
It is similarly impressed by the efforts of former NSW Minister, Joe Tripodi, for his support of the latter. People love to degrade Tripodi’s political reputation these days, but I found him to be a progressive Minister who was willing to have a go at difficult infrastructure projects and, at no point, did he put me under any political or financial pressure.
Now, ATEC has found the equity capital that it requires for its share of the Surat Basin Railway, which will reach Financial Close within 12 months. Our partners in the SBR joint venture are Xstrata Coal and QR National.
ATEC also has capital to move forward with the development of the Border Railway and the Toowoomba Intermodal Freight Centre.
Our new financial partners are Energy and Minerals Group (EMG) of Dallas, Texas. Their involvement has FIRB approval. The Financial Review, the Courier-Mail and the ABC carried the story of the EMG investment. If you would like a copy of the Media Release, just send me an email.
Can I say that, while I had a significant role in the investment negotiations with EMG, the key figure in the transaction was ATEC Chief Executive, John Balassis, who is based in Sydney. He will lead ATEC to become the largest private investor in rail infrastructure in Australia.