6 October 2020

Community support not enough to make Canberra-Eden railway feasible

| Elka Wood
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Bombala railway station.

A feasibility study on the proposed Canberra to Port of Eden railway has deemed it not economically viable. Photo: File.

Despite strong community support, a Transport for NSW feasibility study of the Canberra to Port of Eden Railway has found the project is not viable because the costs are higher than the potential revenue.

The study was funded with $1 million provided by the NSW Government in 2018, and it found that the project would cost $6.3 billion to complete.

The proposed line would carry passengers and freight and would rebuild the existing line between Queanbeyan and Bombala, and build new line joining Canberra Airport in the north and Port of Eden in the south.

“Even on the most optimistic demand assumptions, with significant freight diverted from other NSW ports, the demand projections for the full project from Canberra Airport to Port of Eden only generate benefits of $225.8 million during the life of the project, compared against the cost to achieve this benefit of $5447.6 million (both in present value terms, discounted at 7 per cent real),” said the report.

The report said the proposed 300km railway would pass through rugged terrain and areas of significant environmental value, including national parks, and would require extensive works, including major tunnels, bridges and viaducts, especially between Bombala and Eden and the Canberra Airport.

Bombala Railway Station.

Bombala railway station. Photo: File.

“The costs of reinstatement of the non-operational railway are significant, and the cost to construct the railway down to Port of Eden is extremely high due to the topographical challenges and the environmental constraints,” said the report.

“While the sections from Queanbeyan to Bombala to Port of Eden are expensive and difficult to achieve, they could be delivered with substantial investment.”

While the railway line was originally identified as a potential economic opportunity for the Snowy Monaro region and southwest region of NSW by engineer Edwin Michell, community feedback since the report was published in late September 2020 has pointed out that the value the rail link would provide to regional communities is not a simple matter of cost versus revenue.

“The report does not take into account the benefits of the railway to us all in reducing our use of fossil fuels and making our roads safer, as well as connecting isolated communities,” said Cooma resident Peter Mirian.

Member for Eden-Monaro, Kristy McBain, said she will soon be meeting with Cooma and Monaro Progress Association to get its perspective on the rail feasibility study.

“We need a new way to assess big ideas in regional areas,” said Ms McBain. “The benefits often take longer to realise and are always more nuanced than in metro areas.”

For more information, visit Transport for NSW.

Original Article published by Elka Wood on About Regional.

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Don’t worry about feasibility, just make it Stage 102 of Canberra Light Rail.

Capital Retro3:10 pm 10 Oct 20

I could have supplied that feasibility study with a similar outcome in one day for $250.00.

It concerns me also that a lot of the “community support” may be coming from people who have authority to “invest” ratepayers money because they think something is for a “good cause”.

I don’t see the feasibility in the Canberra to Eden railway either. The Port of Eden is a small port in a town of just over 3000 people. The location of the port is exceptionally good, but seemingly lacking potential without much population and resources, such as mining or agricultural resources to sustain imports, exports and cruise ship tourism.

The only other way I could think of improving feasibility would be to have tourist and luxury train services that focus heavily on the train experience and journey. Otherwise, it’s seemingly founded on the novelty factor of reopening the railway line to Bombala for historical and heritage value and purposes, but with little economic value. It should benefit as many people as possible.

I think the most seemingly critical, beneficial and realistic railway project that should be advocated for and supported by political parties that would be of benefit is the extension of the Canberra/Sydney railway line from Kingston to Canberra City (Civic) that would be a more centralised location providing greater incentive for tourists, passengers, and potential for increased services and other luxury or tourist rail operators than the non-centralised remotely located terminus of Kingston.

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