It gets talked about at dinner parties and on the sideline of kids soccer, its an idea that always generates excitement, but is one that is always poo-pooed as impossible and fanciful, but that is about to be tested.
The NSW Government has launched a $1 million investigation exploring the potential of opening a freight and passenger rail line to connect Canberra and the Port of Eden.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Deputy Premier, Minister for Regional NSW and Member for Monaro John Barilaro, and Transport Minister and Member for Bega Andrew Constance made the announcement in Cooma at the town’s old train station.
“30 years after the suspension of services, the study will examine re-opening the Canberra to Bombala rail line, as well as the extension of the line to the Port of Eden, which is currently undergoing a major redevelopment,” Ms Berejiklian says.
“This rail line could potentially provide a new link from Canberra, as a global gateway for passengers and trade, to the Port of Eden, an emerging cruise destination and home to one of the largest fishing fleets in NSW.
“As a government we have worked hard to put ourselves in the financial position where we can invest heavily in major infrastructure projects that transform the way we live and get around, and I want to ensure that investment extends right to the borders of NSW, not just the borders of metropolitan Sydney,” she says.
The line to Bombala via Cooma was progressively closed between 1986 and 1990. Sections have briefly re-opened for heritage/tourist operations, however, the line is currently in an un-trafficable condition.
The Bombala line is 304 km long and starts at the Australian Rail Track Corporation/Country Regional Network boundary at Joppa Junction near Goulburn.
Mr Barilaro says the announcement is a tip of the hat to our forefathers who hand-built the line between the 1880s and the 1920s, based on a vision of future development in Southern NSW.
“This rail line has long been a dream for our local communities, so I’m pleased we are able to make this important first step today,” Mr Barilaro says.
“I believe the project has the ability to breathe new life into our southern communities by opening up freight and tourism opportunities, which is why I look forward to the results of the study.”
The study will consider reinstating the currently non-operational rail line between Queanbeyan and Bombala, plus the development of new tracks to extend the line to Canberra Airport, as well as the Port of Eden.
Mr Constance says the investigation will comprise of a detailed engineering study, finalise a preferred route, and confirm detailed construction cost estimates.
“By linking the line to the Port of Eden, the project has the potential to connect Queanbeyan and Canberra to the coast, at a location that experts say rivals Sydney Harbour for depth and access,” Mr Constance says.
“The vision for the South East and Tablelands is one of a borderless region, in Australia’s most geographically diverse natural environment, with the nation’s capital at its heart, and a thriving cruise ship terminal on the coast, so opening up a rail corridor has the potential to link all of that together.”
*This story first appeared on About Regional.