The fight to reintroduce passenger trains north of Armidale to the Queensland border continues as the 10,000 strong community petition was presented to the NSW Parliament yesterday.
Member for Northern Tablelands, Adam Marshall, presented the petition on behalf of Trains North, Northern Rail Defenders and Save the Great Northern Rail, the driving force behind the call to return the rail lines to their former glory.
“Congratulation for the work they have done over many years, to amass 10,746 signatures of residents in NSW, over 7,000 of which are from the Northern Tablelands electorate,” said Mr Marshall.
The disused rail line has been inactive since 1990 and not maintained over the years, however, the line has never been formally closed by Parliament.
“The Great Northern Rail Line was looked at by the Federal Government and the ARTC when considering the inland rail route, but for a variety of reasons they decided to go further west,” said Mr Marshall.
This debate and petition confirm the Government will look into the reintroduction of the passenger and freight line between Armidale and Jennings/Wallangarra, which Transport NSW estimated to cost $1.3billion in 2016, but inflation could have this closer to $2billion today.
In response, the Minister for Regional Transport and Roads, Jenny Aitchison didn’t rule out discussions about reopening the line, but she didn’t commit, calling for a business case to be developed.
“This is a really fraught situation,” said Ms Aitchison.
“Transport is the social determinate of education, of health, of opportunity and jobs.”
“Wherever we see an opportunity to improve that we should do it, but we need to do it in a much more strategic and coordinated way then what has been done previously.”
The Government has introduced a program of strategic regional integrated transport plan, that would look at the existing infrastructure, including rail lines and road networks, to justify supply and demand.
“What we want to do is when we come to these debates on public policy, we come from a position of evidence, of a business case,” said Ms Aitchison.
“We are keeping an open mind on all and any actions, but what we are saying is we want to look at them in the fullness of the whole region.”
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