Light at end of high-speed tunnel?

THE prospect of a high-speed rail line taking in the Northern Rivers has stirred excitement in the region.

Karin Kolbe from the group Trains On Our Tracks (TOOT) said a report from federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese yesterday was highly encouraging.

“We welcome any kind of rail, whether it’s a complete fast train that goes Sydney to Brisbane or whether it has a few little stops along the way, with other lines linking in,” she said.

“That would be where the existing Casino-Murwillumbah line comes in.”

Mr Albanese said Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Newcastle, Sydney, Canberra, Wollongong, the Southern Highlands, Albury and Melbourne were among the cities that could be linked by high speed rail.

The trains would travel at 350kmh and Sydney to Brisbane would take three hours for as little as $75.

The Gold Coast and the Northern Rivers are indicated in the report as possible station locations for the fast train.

Ms Kolbe said even the Gold Coast would be a good option for the Northern Rivers, with local lines connecting to it.

“It’s building a transport network for the future,” she said.

She called on other federal MPs to look at the existing rail infrastructure.

“The Federal Government needs to play a role in getting the rail infrastructure across borders,” she said.

As to the “huge numbers” detailing the possible cost of more than $100 billion, Ms Kolbe said it was important to look at the big picture.

“It’s very easy to say ‘this is expensive’, but you need to put it in a total context,” she said.

It follows a worldwide trend towards rail, she said.

“It’s not a question of if we get a fast-track rail line, but when,” she said.

Page MP Janelle Saffin said as well as having potential as a nation-building project, high speed rail was good news for the region.

“Our area was identified as one where a stopping place could be,” Ms Saffin said.

While Lismore would be the logical choice, she said she could not “earmark” it as the stopping point.

The project was likely to stimulate other projects, such as the Casino-to-Murwillumbah and Casino-to-Byron commuter link, but these came under the State Government’s responsibility.

The report was the first stage in a two-part inquiry.

The second stage will involve geotechnical work clarifying potential routes, and costings, Ms Saffin said.

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