Shortly after John Howard was elected Prime Minister of Australia in 1996, I visited him at Parliament to outline a plan that I had to build an Inland Railway from Melbourne to Darwin via Parkes, Toowoomba, Brisbane, Gladstone, Mount Isa and Tennant Creek.

He has readily agreed to see me as I had been his honorary fund raiser for the marginal seats he had to win in order to be PM. I was not a member of the Liberal Party and had done this with no strings attached as he was an old friend, and still his.

Howard apologised and said he did not see it as a priority. He wanted to carry out all of his election promises and this was not one of them. That decision blows the theory that politicians are duty bound to repay political debts, not that I ever expected him to do so.

I decided to undertake the project privately and formed a company that I called Australian Transport and Energy Corridor Ltd which is still operating 21 years later. It is largely responsible for the decision in last Tuesday’s Budget to fund the Melbourne Brisbane section of the Inland Railway.

Let me tell you the story of two decades of persistence.

Peter Costello was not interested as he only favoured infrastructure that was privately funded and was profitable from its opening day, but studies I had done showed that this was not possible. It had to have substantial government funding.

Tim Fisher was a supporter, but he did not have the numbers to get there and John Anderson sat on the fence, offering token funds for small studies.

Nevertheless, my team was able to keep it on the agenda and Anna Bligh backed our plan to link Toowoomba and Gladstone. Sadly it became unviable when the mining boom collapsed.

Then, Anthony Albanese and Wayne Swan pledged 300,000 dollars to buy land for the new corridors needed for the Melbourne Brisbane route, but their government fell before the work could commence and Abbott cancelled it because it was a decision of the Gillard Government. Some time later Truss reinstated it, then doubled it, while Turnbull added extra, but little work was actually done.

Now, Malcolm Turnbull has committed to build it, stating that it will be done irrespective of whether or not private capital is contributed. The Australian Rail Transport Corporation, the government’s own railway company, will receive the funding and has been instructed to form a public private consortium.

ATEC Rail Group, which my old company is now called, has been invited to put capital into the consortium and we will do so along with other private investors.

Will it happen?


21 years of planning will enable work to commence in July.

However, we still have many opponents. They can’t stop us, but they could cause delays. My job is to sell its positives and there are plenty.

Freight trains will run at 120 kilometres an hour and get from Melbourne to Brisbane faster than trucks.

Freight charges will be slashed as long double stacked trains need only two staff whereas every truck has to have a driver.

Trucks wont go out of business. They will service the freight centres along the way and their drivers will be able to go home every night.

The massive cost of being maintaining highways that are crushed by trucks will be saved and the environment will be enhanced as trains create less contamination than trucks.

New value-adding rural industries will be founded as the horrendous cost of getting products to ports will be reduced. Right now, this is not possible as it costs more to get freight to one of our ports than it does to get it from there to China and USA.

These new industries will cause inland cities to grow, encouraging population to move from our overcrowded capital cities.

I could go on, but let me say this.

There is something seriously wrong with government and politics in Australia when it takes 21 years to get an infrastructure project up. Indeed, it is quite disgraceful that infrastructure has had such a low priority.

But, credit is due to Turnbull for committing an amount which is the largest for a nation building project since the Snowy Mountains Hydro 70 years ago.

Cynics say he has done it only to save his political hide, but whatever his reasons, I am cheering.

It will pass Parliament because Shorten will back it. He has been a volunteer on my team for many years because of his personal commitment to create jobs for his Australian Workers Union.

Finally, what it also means is that I can now help ATEC Rail get the Toowoomba Gladstone Railway underway. We have already made proposals to the Queensland Government about this.

I am only 85 years old.

I have got at least another ten years to help make a difference.

Yours at Large.

Everald Compton

John Flynn, known to you all as Flynn of the Inland, has been my inspiration in pioneering the Inland Railway. I have written a book on his life called The Man on the Twenty Dollar Notes’. I invite you to buy it on my website,

If you would like to receive an email every time I do a post, please sign up opposite or on my website


20 thoughts on “BIRTH OF A RAILWAY

  1. Wally

    Congratulations – what a vision Everald! Big infrastructure works creates work & service to the communities on the way. NEXT – building water pipelines from the coasts to the inland to save the lives of hardworking farmers & families & the good farming land to feed Aust. & the world.

    1. Brian Peat

      Yep sir I have been on this case for years but no one wants to listen
      I can send you some info if you want

  2. Anonymous

    Neil Torkington says:
    May 14,2017
    Well done Everald , I hope the infrastructure projects move a little north each year.
    Neil Torkington

  3. Tracey Irwin

    It will be great to see this dream of yours become a reality Uncle Everald. After living in Cloncurry for 3 years and driving the highway between Mount Isa and Cloncurry on numerous occasions, it is important to get as many trucks off the road as possible. It is not nice to be caught between 2 Road Trains when you are in a 4 cylinder car. You are a continual inspiration to me.

  4. Anonymous

    Everald, Congratulations. I am in awe of your tenacity. By comparison I have been door banging for a local infrastructure project for 8 years and am still no nearer achieving my objective. Your example is empowering. Rosemary Munroe

  5. Carlo Bongarzoni

    Everald – congrats on winning this at last. Because it’s Malcolm I still don’t like your chances because he fluffs away from everything if the opposition is strong enough. Maybe you should enlist the QLD family who want to build Badgery’s airport. They seem more realistic and you probably know them anyway. I’m not sure what your views about NSA are these days but I am sad that such a great vision of your is now virtually voiceless and with no public image. Cheers carlo

    Carlo Bongarzoni

    Carlo Bongarzoni Associates P/L

    9 Russell Street

    Clontarf NSW 2093

    T/F 9948 8975; 0410 335 523

  6. Ken Davidson

    Hello Everald

    It would have been fair of you to acknowledge that the currnt form of the Inland Railway came to you from me. I first raised it with John Anderson in late 1992 at a meeting in Narrabri and you heard about it years later via the Toowoomba Mayor.

    I am pleased the idea hasfinally been accepted 25 years after I first aired it. However it still seems to be proposed at a 19th century standard whereas my scheme would make use of the flat terrain and be to world standard capable of taking any train at its economic speed. A completely nrw line to that standard would cost $15b but would attract so much more ttaffic as to be commercial.

    Best wishes Ken

  7. Gabrielle Drinkwater

    Would anybody in their right mind have ever doubted you Everald? Well done. Just make sure u get to ride on the first in less than ten years…please invite me to that party, it should be a beauty!! Admiration and great respect from another banging on closed doors! Gabrielle D.

  8. This is a long overdue piece of infrastructure. It should take a lot of pressure of the road system and reduce the freight component of goods. The route I question because it goes through low population areas. I guess that has been studied and quantified.
    With the intriduction of B-double trucks the highways are becoming overcrowed and dangerous. The Princes Highway in NSW runs along my Eastern boundary and the traffic I guess, has doubled (maybe tripled) in the last ten years. The South Coast line ends at Bomaderry on the North bank of the Shoalhaven River. The East Coast of NSW is a growing population area that needs rail upgrade and extension. I understand that South of the Shoalhaven is expected to relate to Canberra rather than Sydney but there is no rail line or is their one planned.

  9. Anonymous

    Congratulations on your persistent cry for such a much needed form of Freight delivery.

  10. Heather

    Infrastructure at this point in time is paramount. I like the inland rail and the explanation you give on it. Just imagine if we could start the Bradfield Scheme to green the inland ! Could the future fund of $3 Trillion be used ?

  11. Peter Hanson

    This project has many benefits to the country and our country cousins, I am sure many benefits will flow both economic and social as Everald has mentioned. Good on you Everald for your tenacity in keeping this project public for many years that I am sure would have worn a lesser person down.

  12. Anonymous

    Everald, congratulations, have a glass of red tonight to celebrate. If our country had more like you, we would be in a much better place than we are now. 21 year journey, only 85 years of age, and 10 more years to complete the project, keep up the good work.

    1. Peter Cross

      Everald, apologies I was too quick with my response, and did not identify myself. It
      wasn’t Anonymous

  13. Brian Peat

    I am really concerned at the reckless commitments made by Morrison and Turnbull. The debt will soon be $700B and who is going to repay this. Your grandchildren and for the rest of their lives. The Govt has no idea how to create a balanced Budget each year which is an absolute must in order for this country to survive. Enough said but things are serious believe me

  14. Roth, Michael


    I like Melbourne to Toowoomba and I like Toowoomba to Gladstone (to keep the coal out of Brisbane residents lungs) but I don’t see the public benefit in rail from Toowoomba to Brisbane given the huge cost and the new motorway link all the way from port to west Toowoomba. By the time this rail link is built, the B-triples and A-doubles serving this corridor won’t need any drivers.

    Regards, Michael

    1. Bill Conry

      Michael, they will still need roads which will still be torn up.
      Getting trucks off the Newell H’way and goods to Brisbane and elsewhere faster will be of unbelievable advantage to say nothing of the road accidents reduced..
      Well done Everald old mate. It has taken far too long..
      Bill Conry

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