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Friday, November 27, 2020

Eden-Monaro candidates back rail project

Multiple candidates in the Eden-Monaro by-election have come together to call on the Federal Government to commit funding for a $3 billion freight and passenger rail for the region.

The project proposal shows the train departing from Canberra’s International Airport, travelling through Cooma and to the Port of Eden by one of three proposed routes – through Bega Valley, Wyndham or Nungatta.

Australian Federation Party candidate Jason Potter has openly shown his support for the project and said the electorate needed a win.

“We see it as a great job creation project coming out of the triple whammy of COVID-19, the bushfires and the drought,” he said.

“We are looking to the Federal Government to use some of the $72 billion of funding announced for infrastructure projects – we just want to see a couple of billion of that spent on this.

“We need something that has got some energy that is going to reinvigorate some life into the community and give them the opportunity to give time and energy into a project that is going to create jobs.”

The project plans to renovate the existing rail line to Bombala and construct a new railway to Eden, with a total timeline of five years.

Queanbeyan railway station is listed as one of the stops for the rail project.

Engineer Edwin Michell completed the concept plan for the project in 2018 and said while the price tag was big, the project was necessary.

“It is a very large cost but it’s a question of what the alternative is,” he said. 

“The freight task in Australia is expected to double over the next 20 years. How are we going to handle that freight task with our existing roads and our existing railways and ports?”

Mr Michell also said the passenger rail would allow an opportunity to live in surrounding regional areas while still working in the Canberra region.

“Housing affordability is a huge issue in Canberra, it’s one of Australia’s most unaffordable housing markets along with Sydney and Melbourne,” he said.

“By giving people an opportunity to live in a regional area but still commute to Canberra by rapid rail, that opens up large new housing markets and supports the regional economy.”

Other candidates who have shown their support for the project include Labor candidate Kristy McBain and Nationals candidate Trevor Hicks who said he supported the project which would create jobs and tourism in the region.

“We are supporting this project but mainly because we believe it will create jobs in the Eden-Monaro along the freight line and it will create tourism,” he said.

“Being so close to the international airport, we will have international visitors and they can jump on the train.”

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