With the first sod of the Inland Rail project officially turned near Parkes on Thursday, local Federal Nationals MP Mark Coulton was pleased to see the nation-building project kickstarted.

“Today is a very special milestone signifying the commencement of works on the Inland Rail — a project which compelled me to finish up on the tractor on the farm near Warialda for a career in politics,” Mr Coulton said. “In my maiden speech 11 years ago I said this rail line would place the Parkes electorate at the transport crossroads of Australia, and that is a statement I believe in strongly today. The benefits to local industry will be enormous and I know that by sticking to a strong vision and with tireless work this project will deliver benefits to the regions never seen before, including in my electorate of Parkes.”

Deputy Prime Minister and Federal Nationals Leader Michael McCormack said the Inland Rail would deliver freight to market at reduced costs, putting more money in farmers’ pockets.

“Inland Rail is game-changing infrastructure,” Mr McCormack said. “It will deliver jobs, not just during the construction phase, but permanent jobs through increased freight. Farmers will be able to move food and fibre between Melbourne and Brisbane, in larger volumes and more cost-efficiently. This is truly a once-in-a-generation project and I’m proud to be part of this historic event, marking the formal start of construction.”

Inland Rail will enable faster, bigger, double-stacked trains to move more produce into domestic and international markets, at a lower freight cost. The 1700km ‘corridor of commerce’ will open up inland regional communities to investment and export opportunities.

Fast facts:

• The Inland Rail project is a 1700 kilometre rail line between Brisbane and Melbourne which will enable freight to be delivered in under 24 hours. It is a $9.3 billion investment made possible by the Nationals in Government.

• The construction contract for the Parkes to Narromine section of Inland Rail is worth more than $300 million and so far more than 14,000 tonnes of steel has been delivered to the site.

• There are currently 187 live contracts for materials, goods and services worth $637 million associated with Inland Rail, including the manufacturing of 200,000 concrete sleepers.