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Major track work is needed in the heart of Wagga to allow the federal government’s inland rail line to go ahead.
On Tuesday night, federal Treasurer Scott Morrison announced $8.4 billion for the project, which will allow 1.8-kilometre, double-stacked freight trains to run between Melbourne and Brisbane via Wagga and Parkes.
Farmers and businesses welcomed the funding, which is expected to give a big boost to the long-awaited Riverina Intermodal Freight and Logistics (RIFL) Hub. But the Glenfield Road and Best Street overpasses, as well as some smaller footbridges, were too low for the bigger trains to pass.
Councillor Rod Kendall, a trained engineer, said it was likely the main line would be lowered to allow trains to pass under the existing roads.
He said the old Kapooka Bridge was also too low, but the new one was built to accommodate the larger trains.
According to the Australian Rail Track Corporation, the inland rail line will see parts of the existing network upgraded and linked by newer connections, such as the one between Illabo and Stockinbingal.
However, people in the western Riverina were left fuming after they were bypassed, despite producing a larger volume of food and fibre.
Griffith mayor John Dal Broi said he joined other councils in lobbying hard to convince federal government to go via the Murrumbidgee irrigation Area (MIA), but was told it was too expensive and not feasible.
“There comes a time when you realise you’re not going to achieve anything and decide to stop banging your head against the wall,” he said.
Riverina MP Michael McCormack said he understood the concerns of the MIA, having previously represented them, but the government had looked at several alternatives before deciding on the eastern route as the most viable solution.
“Even with the chosen route there will need to be land acquisition… but this is the best use of the taxpayers’ dollars,” Mr McCormack said.
“This inland rail will be a great enabler.
“It’s a corridor of commerce from the Riverina farm gate to the Asian plate.”
Alan Brown, head of the Wagga branch of NSW Farmers, hailed the inland rail line as a win for primary producers and said the MIA would still benefit if short-line rail ran from Griffith to the main line.
“It’s not only the cost savings, but also allowing Riverina farmers to access Brisbane more efficiently than by road,” Mr Brown said.
“At the moment we’ve got 1500 semi trailers going up the highway every day, but this will be far and away the best for heavy freight in the future.”
This article first appeared on www.dailyadvertiser.com.au
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