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A FRESH push to have freight trains removed from the hills is gaining speed, with Mitcham Council pledging $10,000 to a new investigation into the longstanding issue.
The council last week unanimously voted to back the scoping study by the Federal Government’s Regional Development Australia, which will examine options for removing the freight line from the hills.
State Liberal leader Steven Marshall pledged $20 million in January to develop a business case into a multibillion-dollar plan to reroute freight trains and trucks around the Adelaide Hills if elected next year.
For more than a decade, hills residents and Mitcham Council have fought for the freight line to be diverted, saying the trains create noise, traffic congestion and, in summer, are a bushfire risk.
Cr Karen Hockley told last week’s council meeting a new report was long overdue.
“It is something that our residents by and large support and something that will be beneficial going forward for both our community and the state,” Cr Hockley said.
Cr Stephen Fisher said it was a “very important process” that he “strongly supported”.
The investigation would look at solutions including constructing a rail and highway bypass from Murray Bridge to Two Wells, south of Truro.
It comes after a 2010 study found rerouting the line would be too expensive.
However, a report presented to last week’s Mitcham meeting said that study “did not … take into account the increase in population in the hills, the social and environmental consequences of the existing system, … (and) the existing and growing constraints from commuter traffic”.
Blackwood Action Group treasurer Geoff Bartlett said the new examination was a “positive step in the right direction”.
“Hopefully it is the start of a process that will eventually see common sense prevail and the trains removed,” Mr Bartlett said.
“It’s the start of something big and it won’t happen tomorrow … but hopefully it can all happen.”
The route of the Liberals’ proposed GlobeLink rail and road freight bypass of Adelaide.Former Rail and Transport Committee chairman Mark Ward said freight trains were a serious issue.
Mr Ward, a former Mitcham councillor who ran for Labor in the Davenport by-election in 2015 and for Boothby in the federal election last year, said the existing freight line could be used to form a commuter expressway from Murray Bridge to the city.
“It makes so much sense to have this rail diversion … there is a much better way forward,” Mr Ward said.
“You could get a train service running (on the current freight line) from Mount Barker to Belair and then express it Adelaide.”
Neighbouring Unley Council, regional councils and the Local Government Association were also expected to commit to the investigation, expected to cost about $75,000.
Regional Development Australia chief executive Damien Cooke — who described the current line as “very inefficient” — said the study would start at the beginning of next month.
This article first appeared on www.adelaidenow.com.au
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