ARMIDALE councillor Debra O’Brien has hit back at mayor Simon Murray over claims she is politicising the removal of the town’s viaduct.
Cr O’Brien is Labor’s state election candidate for the Northern Tablelands.
“I have been accused by the mayor of Armidale Regional Council, Cr Simon Murray, of ‘playing politics’ by arguing against the destruction of Armidale’s McLennan Street viaduct of the Great Northern Railway (GNR) when there has been no community consent for this drastic action,” she said.
“Cr Murray can call it political if he wants to, but I make no apology for promoting this region and the welfare of its citizens and I can think of no better way than by ensuring the Armidale and Guyra have the best possible public transport links, for both passenger and freight services, north and south.”
Councillors voted last Wednesday to write to Transport NSW and Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall to remove the viaduct.
It comes after businesses in the community expressed concerns about the safety of the rail bridge, after a number of incidents where trucks got stuck under the viaduct.
Cr O’Brien said she would be more than happy to make the viaduct an “election issue” if council sought approval from the state member.
“While I am proud to admit that I support the GNR 100 per cent and will do everything I can to have its restoration become part of Country Labor policy at the next state election, when will the proponents of vandalising this priceless asset come clean about their own political agenda?” she said.
She believes the GNR is a more viable solution to inland rail than a line from Brisbane to Melbourne through Parkes.
Her comments were met with disapproval from Cr Murray, who said the removal wasn’t an excuse to cut the GNR.
“I think her comments border on her campaigning on behalf of the Labor Party, which I find not conducive, this is a local government issue,” he told The Leader.
The viaduct has been standing since 1883, and recently residents started a petition to have the defunct rail bridge removed.