Alice Springs to Darwin Railway

In August 1982, Cabinet was provided with an information paper on progress to date in relation to the proposed Alice Springs to Darwin railway.

While the Commonwealth Government had given a commitment for construction of the railway line to take place in 1990, the Northern Territory continued to press for completion in 1988 in time for the national bicentenary celebration. 

A joint Commonwealth-Northern Territory consultative committee of officials had been established to progress work on the railway.

Commonwealth and Northern Territory representatives had produced a draft Heads of Agreement between the two Governments. In brief, the Agreement sought to define the responsibilities and commitments of the two Governments as follows:

  • Commonwealth Government to build at its own expense a standard gauge railway between Alice Springs and Darwin, and aim to complete the line by 1988
  • Commonwealth Government to negotiate with Aboriginal communities in relation to Aboriginal land or land under consideration for grant as Aboriginal land for the railway corridor
  • Northern Territory Government to provide the land for the construction of the railway except existing Aboriginal land or land under claim
  • Northern Territory Government to provide the construction materials of gravel and earth where those occur on NT Crown land
  • various issues flowing from the above and the commitments made by both governments.

The progress report also noted the following developments:

  • a 200km route had been surveyed from Charles River (Alice Springs) to the Mt Tops to Mt Octy area 
  • over 60km had been pegged, while pegging of the Alice Springs to Charles River section was still in abeyance pending resolution of a sacred site with Aboriginal owners
  • anthropological works were continuing northwards particularly in the Devils Marbles area which was likely to be affected by the rail route
  • between Tennant Creek and Katherine, it was becoming clear that a route west of Lake Woods and northwards through the Hidden Valley area was both feasible and significantly superior in engineering and cost terms compared to a route along the Stuart Highway
  • a final centre line had been pegged through Katherine, and survey work was continuing in various sections through to Noonamah
  • planning for a station location south of Katherine
  • in the Darwin area, the railway commission Australian National had accepted the alternative corridor through Coonawarra to Winnellie and the entire route was to be surveyed by the end of the year.

A submission was intended to be made to Federal Cabinet for an Act of Parliament to be passed in early 1983 if the project proceeded.

Cabinet noted the progress report.

Read the Cabinet decision - submission number 2069 and decision number 2461 of 10 August 1982 (1.2 mb).

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Last updated: 11 October 2017