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Residents near the Greenbushes mine are calling for an abandoned railway to be re-opened amid fears extra trucks on the road will hamper tourism and put too much pressure on a highway.
But with a major expansion planned at the Greenbushes mine, locals have ramped up calls for an abandoned railway to be reopened amid fears extra trucks on the road would hamper tourism and put too much pressure on the highway.
Almost 3 million tonnes of lithium concentrate are expected to be extracted from Talison's mine each year after the expansion, putting an extra 140 trucks a day on route between Greenbushes to Bunbury.
There is widespread support from the community for the expansion.
But Kirup resident Louisa Warburton-Rees said the extra trucks would be too many.
"The trucks damage the roads, so they're constantly being upgraded [and] that costs money and it's dangerous for people on the roads driving cars and people crossing the road," she said.
"It impacts local businesses as well."
The old railway has been closed for about 15 years.
It neighbours Ms Warburton-Rees' property and although she said she was angry when she first found out the trains might run again, she had come to accept it.
"Picking between rail and trucks, I'd pick trains," Ms Warburton-Rees said.
But as the co-owner of the Lady Marmalade cafe on South Western highway, Mr Rutter said he was would rather deal with trains passing by his house than see an increased number of trucks on the road.
He said he was concerned more trucks would deter people from stopping in towns like Kirup and slow tourism in the region.
"Worst-case scenario we may have to look at taking the business somewhere else," Mr Rutter said.
"Having the massive amount of road trains going through constantly will, I think, just destroy what people are after when they want to go to the local coffee shop."
Both the State Government and Main Roads insisted South Western Highway could handle the increased road traffic.
But Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan acknowledged the rail proposal was important to the local community.
Who will pay?A feasibility study, conducted by Talison, the South West Development Commission and Arc Infrastructure is underway to assess the viability of the rail line.
If it is proved be a valid option, the question of who will pay for it will remain.
The State Government estimated re-opening the rail-line would cost $130 million, which Ms MacTiernan said was a big ask given there was no money in the budget.
"If we were to go down that path, we would be expecting some industry contribution and some contribution from the Federal Government to make this work," she said.
A Talison spokesman said the company would continue to work with the Government on the project.
Tourism the key to re-starting the train?In the town of Balingup, some residents are calling for a tourist train to run on the same line, which chair of Balingup Rail Group Malcolm Lee said could be the key to getting the multi-million-dollar project over the line.
"As far as a revenue operation is concerned it's a very doable proposition, it's not out of the ball park by any means," Mr Lee said
"The time has come to become a lot more reasonable about what you inflict on your communities."
The manager of the Balingup Visitor's centre Lela Scarrott agreed and said a railway would open new tourism opportunities for the South West.
"There's so much potential to grow tourism and to bring more people down here," she said.
"Let's have a plan of action and let's encourage tourist operators to invest down here."
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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