Win for rail

From left: Nationals candidate for Murray Austin Evans, Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight Melinda Pavey, Nationals candidate for Cootamundra Steph Cooke, Narrandera Mayor Neville Kschenka, and Deputy Premier John Barilaro.

NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro and Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight Melinda Pavey announced a total of $1.1 million in funding for the Junee North Triangle and the Narrandera-Tocumwal Railway reactivation.

Nationals candidates Steph Cooke (Cootamundra) and Austin Evans (Murray) were also present at yesterday’s announcement at
the Narrandera Shire Council Chambers.

“It’s an important announcement, an announcement made possible through the leasing of the wires and poles in Sydney. We were able to drive a very hard bargain and we’re getting one third of that funding coming to regional NSW. A part of that is $400
million dollars towards fixing country rail,” Ms Pavey said. “We want to get more freight movements on to rail and off our local
roads to ensure that we can drive the cost of production down for our farmers.

“I also particularly want to acknowledge what a hard bargainer and hard worker the mayor of Narrandera is. Cr Kschenka has been on the phone to everybody, we’ve had three meetings about this, so I’m particularly pleased to announce $500,000 towards a complete study of the Tocumwal to Narrandera rail line that was closed down.

“This is a really important part of the freight network, and growing in importance. It’s a very exciting agricultural area. We need to be able to drive those costs of production down.”

Narrandera Mayor Neville Kschenka has been campaigning for some time to have the Narrandera-Tocumwal route re-opened and was given the news by Ms Pavey yesterday.

“There’ll be a lot of happy people out there, including myself,” Mr Kschenka said.

The hope is for more trucks to be taken off the road and to encourage businesses to switch their freight transport to rail, although Cr Kschenka emphasised that it wasn’t about removing jobs in the truck industry.

“The other thing to take into consideration is the projected increase in freight – it’s said to double by 2030. So the trucking industry won’t have anything taken away from it; if anything they might be grateful not to have the extra pressure,” Cr Kschenka said.

Ms Pavey said that investment in rail would be vital for Australian agriculture.

“We have the world’s most efficient farmers, but if you have to add 30 per cent for freight it takes away from that efficiency.

“It’s a big project, and Neville’s right, we have to do the work, do the planning and see how it’s going to look. It’s not overnight. That’s going to be the challenge; we need State and Federal Governments and farmers to contribute,” Ms Pavey said.

Mr Barilaro also mentioned the benefits of the proposed rail projects.

“It’s good not just for this area but for the broader region. That’s why we’ve got both candidates here today, Steph and Austin; they know how important it is. I thank the Roads Minister for this investment. Of course it’s about doing the study and the
re-opening of one line, but more importantly, its about showing the government’s commitment around getting more freight on rail.

“It’s all about making it more efficient for farmers in order to get their produce to market. Projects like this generate real time freight efficiencies and directly benefit local growers.” Ms Pavey said a more direct rail link to the ports via Tocumwal could reduce the cost of transporting produce by as much as 20 per cent, savings that will stimulate the local economy.

“Travel times from Junee to Port Botany and Port Kembla could be reduced by up to three hours, and provide greater capacity at the busy Junee rail yard,” Mrs Pavey said. “We know that half of the 80,000 export containers from the Western Riverina travel by road. This equates to almost 40,000 long distance road movements per year.

“We’re taking trucks off the road and putting freight on the tracks, reducing the price of the rail freight, cycle times and taking the pressure off local roads.”

The NSW Government will invest $600,000 to design and commence pre-construction activities for a reconfigured junction at Junee North and $500,000 to complete a feasibility study and business case for the reactivation of the 180km non-operational
Narrandera-Tocumwal Railway Line.

Announcements of other successful projects for short listing under the round one Fixing Country Rail program will be made in late 2017, with funding awarded and projects to commence in 2018.

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