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Australian Rail Track Corporation has invited a shortlist of three consortia to submit proposals for the Toowoomba-Beaudesert section of the Inland Rail in Queensland.

Capstone, G2K Connect and Regionerate Rail are now entering a Request for Proposal (RFP) phase to determine which will win the contract for this section.

ARTC aims to award a contract in 2022 to the group with the best proposal, to be delivered as a Public Private Partnership.

The work between Gowrie outside Toowoomba and Kagaru near Beaudesert will include a 6.2km tunnel through the Toowoomba Range – the longest diesel freight rail tunnel in the Southern Hemisphere.

Inland Rail chief executive officer Richard Wankmuller said it was an important milestone for the Inland Rail project.

“The PPP will deliver the 128km from Gowrie to Kagaru and will include construction of three tunnels and numerous viaducts, bridges and crossing loops,” he said.

“The geology and topography of this section, mostly located within protected corridors, poses many challenges which have required us to undertake a lot of site investigations to obtain a better understanding of the conditions and inform the final design.

“The PPP process will draw on the private sector’s experience and innovation to deliver the world-class engineering solution required to traverse the Great Dividing Range.”

Mr Wankmuller said more than $1 billion in contracts had been awarded to companies working on Inland Rail to date.

Inland Rail is a 1700km freight rail line that will connect Melbourne and Brisbane via regional Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.

This week the ARTC announced it had signed a contract worth more than $650 million with joint-venture Trans4m Rail to construct the next section of Inland Rail between Narrabri and North Star.

It came after the first section of Inland Rail between Parkes and Narromine was finished last month.

Mr Wankmuller said this had seen $110 million spent with local businesses, creating jobs for more than 760 locals who worked on that section.

The Capstone consortium in the running for the Queensland section comprises CPB Contractors, Ghella, UGL, DIF, Pacific Partnerships. G2Konnect comprises Acciona, Ferrovial, Cintra, Macquarie.

Regionerate Rail comprises Clough, GS Engineering and Construction, Webuild (formerly Salini Impregilo), Lend Lease Services, Plenary Group.