Construction will begin with a 5.3km link between the north-south and east-west corridors. A further 98km of existing line will also be upgraded as part of Stage 1 of the project.

Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) CEO, Mr John Fullerton, said the start of Inland Rail construction heralds an historic and important milestone, not only for the regions but the whole of Australia.

“The sod-turn for Inland Rail is a significant occasion and it’s fitting to celebrate it at the site where the first greenfield section of Inland Rail will be built,” he says. “When Inland Rail is operational, Parkes will be an important hub with double-stack, 1800m trains connecting west to Perth and Adelaide and between Melbourne and Brisbane.”

Inland Rail CEO, Mr Richard Wankmuller, added: “Inland Rail is the safe, sustainable, integrated solution that will help address Australia’s current freight inefficiencies. This new 1700km freight rail line will help capture commercial opportunities in both metropolitan and regional areas through more efficient and commercially responsive supply chains.”

Contractor INLink was awarded a $A 300m ($US 216m) contract earlier this year to upgrade the Parkes - Narromine section, and build the 5.3km connector at Parkes. During the year materials for the project including heavier rail and new concrete sleepers have been delivered to worksites in preparation for the start of construction.