Rail discussion returns to tracks

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Rail discussion returns to tracks

The reinstatement of rail line transport to and from Mount Gambier continues to be a focus of Regional Development Australia (RDA) Limestone Coast.

RDA Limestone Coast deputy chair Alan Richardson said rail was the obvious solution for the huge freight task being placed on the region.

Mr Richardson made the RDA Limestone Coast vision known during a recent presentation to Grant District Council.

The presentation was based on a hypothetical reinstatement of the rail line between Mount Gambier and Heywood, as well as between Mount Gambier and Wolseley.

Mr Richardson, along with RDA Limestone Coast chief executive David Wheaton, made the presentation regarding the Green Triangle Region Freight Action Plan Implementation.

The presentation followed on from a report highlighting the Limestone Coast’s strengths and future opportunities for growth and investment

RDA Limestone Coast partnered with Infrastructure Australia to develop the Regional Strengths and Infrastructure Gaps report.

Consultation facilitated by RDA Limestone Coast found that stakeholders within the region considered the quality of freight infrastructure as one of the most significant infrastructure gaps.

In order to support growing freight volumes, alleviate pressure on local roads and increase opportunities to enter new markets a freight rail connection in the southern parts of the region was identified as a necessity.

The Mount Gambier to Heywood project hinges on a proposed upgrade to the Maroona to Portland line, which Mr Richardson said the federal government has committed $2.2m to investigate its feasibility.

“The enquiry that is taking place should be reported to the Federal Government very shortly. It will be interesting to see what comes out of that,” Mr Richardson said.

“If we reopen the line between Mount Gambier and Heywood it adds to the traffic on that line and increases to the viability of that line. It’s a complimentary thing that is happening.”

Mr Richardson said out of the top 50 most populated cities in Australia, Mount Gambier was one of three without a rail service.

He said the RDA Limestone Coast had consulted with CSIRO to provide information about the feasibility of reopening the line.

“In 2019 we asked CSIRO to use their transit log about freight in the region, whether the lines were worth reopening and to look at pinch points that road freight operators faced as well,” he said.

Mr Richardson said the initial report found reopening the line would not meet some of the requirements by Infrastructure Australia.

However, he said there had been changes made since the transit report was prepared.

“After a recalculation and change to the transit report there is now 1.7 billion net tonne kilometres of freight that has been identified coming in and out of this region,” he said.

“The transit report has come to the conclusion that it is worthwhile upgrading the line between Mount Gambier and Heywood.”

Mr Richardson reported a predicted increase of freight task between 80 to 90% by 2032.

“Can our trucking industry handle it? Can our roads handle it? Rail is an obvious solution,” he said.

Meanwhile Mr Richardson alleviated concerns he has heard around the community about how far into the city the trains would travel.

“There is a fear trains will be going through Mount Gambier again,” he said.

Mr Richardson said trains would not be coming to the city, but to a station at Glenburnie, potentially on Grant District Council land.

“We obviously need to talk to Grant Council and how the project integrates and we are working hard to get the South Australian Government on side,” he said.

However, upgrading the old broad gauge trainline would need to be completed before trains are on the tracks.

According to Mr Richardson the biggest cost would be upgrading level crossings.

Mr Richardson said the next step would be to re-engage with the CSIRO and consult with local operators.

“We will re-engage with CSIRO to review and update existing modelling, speak to local operators to get real figures that we can present to governments,” he said.

“We are starting to build some solid information to present to various governments for funding.

“It is important to present sufficient information to Infrastructure Australia.

“Hopefully by end of the year we will have submissions in for infrastructure bodies and start to get some feedback from some organisations.”

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