The NSW Government is calling for private sector Registrations of Interest (ROI) to restore, operate and maintain the disused Blayney and Demondrille rail line.
And Young’s mayor Stuart Freudenstein is hopeful.
“This is it, really. I hate to say it but if potential operators don’t step up, this could be it,” he said, “this is our best chance.”
The railway line that links Demondrille railway station, near Harden, with Blayney was suspended from operation in the November 2008 state mini budget.
Cr Freudenstein remembers the last train that travelled through Young was a tourism train in September 2009.
Since then Young, Harden, Cowra and Blayney councils have been pushing to see the line reopened.
These efforts have included two public meetings; the first held in Greenthorpe in May 2009, and another in Boorowa in February 2012.
The second meeting saw the state roads minister Duncan Gay meet with 10 local government representatives to go over the ministerial task force report on the reopening of the Blayney-Demondrille Railway Line.
And just under two months ago the NSW Government signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Blayney, Cowra, Harden, Weddin and Young Shire councils to investigate the improvement of the regulatory operating model for the line.
Cr Freudenstein, who attended both meetings, said he was excited and relieved the process had now reached this point.
“It’s taken a while and a lot of work went into it through the five councils,” Cr Freudenstein said.
“I’m certainly very appreciative of Katrina’s efforts for keeping this issue prominent,” he said.
Member for Burrinjuck Katrina Hodgkinson also welcomed yesterday’s news.
“State Labor’s suspension had significant negative effects on the ability to transport local grain harvests by rail and also on tourism, in particular the Lachlan Valley Railway based in Cowra,” she said.
It also impacted timber freight transport, forcing most of it to travel on Young’s rural roads, Ms Hodgkinson said.
“Since then I have strongly advocated on behalf of local councils, grain farmers and the Lachlan Valley Railway seeking ways to have the line reopened,” she said.
Transport for NSW is now calling for Registrations of Interest from suitably qualified parties to restore, maintain and operate the railway lines from Blayney to Demondrille as well as between Koorawatha to Greenethorpe on a commercially sustainable basis under a fixed term licence.
The reopening is expected take a large amount of freight off local roads and free-up congested Sydney and south coast lines, according to Ms Hodgkinson.
She credited Cowra Council’s economic development officer Mike Foster who she said was instrumental in this process in sourcing potential freight, such as logs, containers from Blayney and mining material from Blayney and Cowra, that justified the line’s reopening.
“The grain is a bonus,” she said.
While discussions have particularly centred on freight – with the exception of the Lachlan Valley Railway – Cr Freudenstein said railway line had potential to open doors for tourism in the future.
“We needed freight to justify the line, tourism couldn’t do it alone,” he said.
More information is available on the NSW eTendering website at www.tenders.nsw.gov.au with the ROI closing at 5pm on October 4.
“I thank Roads Minister Duncan Gay for his commitment to ensuring local rural and regional rail and road infrastructure is connected to the main transport network to help drive further economic growth in the region,” Ms Hodgkinson said.
“The reopening of this line will significantly benefit grain farmers and councils allowing the transport of the grain harvest by rail, reducing heavy vehicle traffic on local roads and also boosting tourism opportunities in this region,” she said.
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