As the federal government pushes forward with Barnaby Joyce's white elephant political legacy of a $10 billion inland rail line, overlooked is the extent to which subsidised coal exports will play a key role in the finances of the project.

Despite using optimistic demand scenarios, the government has been unable to conjure a business case for the inland rail line, which will ostensibly connect Melbourne and Brisbane via central New South Wales, albeit stopping at Acacia Ridge in outer Brisbane, with a connection to the Port of Brisbane not slated until the 2040s. According to the business case prepared in 2015 by rail infrastructure owner Australian Rail Track Corporation for a committee headed by former Nationals leader John Anderson, the inland rail project as a whole will wipe out $6.5 billion in taxpayer funding over its life, with total revenues less than half of the cost of building and operating the line, and assuming there are no blowouts and delays to construction.