Inland Rail steams ahead

Inland Rail steams ahead with boost to Parkes businesses and first section to open mid-2020


Local employment and economic activity has hit a peak.


The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) is powering ahead with the first 103.7km section of the Inland Rail between Parkes and Narromine set to open in mid-2020.

ARTC reports more than 1580 people have worked on the Parkes to Narromine Inland Rail project, including 632 local residents and 163 local indigenous residents.

More than 90 businesses are offering locally-sourced materials and services to the project, including cement, rail sleepers, fencing, cranes, machinery and geotechnical advice.

And more than $67 million has been injected into the economy for goods, ranging from takeaway coffee, comfy cabins, personal protective equipment and even gym memberships - including $8.6 million spent on Indigenous businesses.

It's all been a massive boost to Parkes' accommodation sector as well.

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With Inland Rail construction peaking, Astro Dish Motor Inn owner John Pizarro and manager Donald Chisholm have had the 'no vacancy' sign up most weeks.

"The flow-on benefits from Inland Rail activities have substantially influenced the town's local economy," John said.

"There's been more employment opportunities and a substantial increase in demand for worker accommodation."

When Leighton Davies and his wife Pauline bought the Peak Hill Caravan Park in 2004, they saw great potential in Peak Hill.

Located along a key tourist route, they expanded the caravan park, doubling the number of cabins, which have been full nearly every night of late and caravans are lined up across the park.

"Tourists are our bread and butter, but the rail line, mines and roadworks are the icing on the cake," Leighton said.

Meanwhile Hotel Gracelands in Parkes has become a home away from home for people working on the Inland Rail.

Since the start of construction of the Parkes and Narromine section, the hotel has adapted to making the most of the increased business by catering to different cultures and backgrounds.

It has been a learning opportunity for the staff from an accounting perspective too, who are increasingly working with charge-back systems and third-party travel providers, rather than just cash transactions and direct bookings.

While the hotel is popular, especially during the famous Parkes Elvis Festival each January, Allison said about 80 per cent of current business comes from people associated with Inland Rail.

Allison's advice to other businesses along the Inland Rail alignment is "to embrace it".

She encourages entrepreneurs to be ready before the project comes to town, so that businesses can make the most of it as soon as possible.

The story Inland Rail steams ahead first appeared on Daily Liberal.