Train services could return
THE NSW Coalition will stand by its promise to restore train services to the Northern Rivers if it wins next March’s State election, Ballina MP Don Page has told a local rail forum.
Mr Page spoke at a regional rail forum at Byron Bay on Tuesday, organised by lobby group Trains On Our Tracks (TOOT), where he restated the Coalition’s 2007 pledge to restore the Casino-Murwillumbah branch line and put a commuter train on it.
Speaking yesterday from the Nationals’ state conference at Tamworth, Mr Page conceded the project would now be more expensive than it had been in 2007.
He also noted that the 2007 promise, which had come to about $175 million over five years, had included a $75 million commitment from former Labor Transport Minister John Watkins, conditional on the Commonwealth matching spending.
Mr Watkins’ commitment never made the transition from words to reality. But Mr Page said the Coalition remained resolute in its intention to fix the line and would not back away from that position.
Major additions to the line could also be considered through Infrastructure NSW, a new independent funding body the Coalition wants to establish to take politics out of infrastructure decisions.
Mr Page said he would put ideas, such as extending the line to Coolangatta and building a new line from Byron Bay to Ballina, then up the plateau to Lismore, before that body.
The idea of the Ballina loop would be to have stops at Lennox Head, Ballina airport,Alstonville, Wollongbar TAFE and Southern Cross University, before it reconnected with the existing track.
However, the Gold Coast link was the most critical next step, with Mr Page saying it would dramatically increase patronage and reduce the amount of money a Coalition government would have to tip in to subsidise it.