I've always wondered at the argument in our community over rail lines and bike trails.
I'm not against cycling - or even lycra! The solution is so simple.
Why can't we put our bike trails side by side with trains? It just makes so much sense.
People who are fit can ride the trail, those who aren't can hop on a train. And a third wonder ... bike riders can actually use the train to find exotic cycling experiences in lovely but remote areas like national parks and gourmet local produce meccas like Guyra and the Granite Belt.
The riders, delivered by train, bike or a combination of both stimulate cafes, local accommodation and a share in the tourist dollar, now, post covid, hunting for new regional Australian experiences.
What is wrong with this model? The only impediment here is that dismal local mindset that "It'll never happen". But of course it will. It has to.
Rail transport is reviving all over the world, and in Australia new tracks are being built all over and under Sydney as we speak. So why not here?
We have a magnificent rail corridor just waiting for the medium fast rail that people all over the world expect as a matter of course in a modern society.
NSW Trainlink has confirmed there's been a 167 per cent increase in patronage on the XPT (Sydney to Melbourne) since the borders re-opened in January this year.
The Ghan and the Indian Pacific is heavily booked for the rest of 2021.
By contrast in the Northern Inland the last coach service that connected our region to South East Queensland and Brisbane has closed.
Other than a great but small air service there is now no public passenger service across the border to Brisbane. Trains are 80 per cent more efficient than road transport and are now part of the global effort to reduce carbon emissions.
Our region, is one of NSW's three REZ's providing renewable energy for the rest of NSW and Australia.
Why then are there no long term transport plans from both the state and federal government to include a modern electrified rail service to Brisbane using locally generated renewable energy?
Are zero carbon emissions only for city people?
The NSW Government has just finished its $15B 24 year transformation of the Pacific Highway from Newcastle to the Queensland border to a modern divided motorway akin to the best in the UK and Europe.
That route already has multiple interstate rail services, although due to savage storms uprooting the tracks its been out of action for many months. So why not us? Why not the Great North Line to reconnect us to Queensland? It's a vital link between our region and the vibrant north.
The total cost would be in the vicinity of $2-3B. Chicken feed in transport dollars.
The recent state "road and rail" budget allocation to our electorate was $84.7M going to Moree and the Newell Highway, $5.3M for Moree rail, so a cool $90M for Moree roads and rail vs $23M to patch up Thunderbolt and Waterfall Ways. $0 for rail on the Tablelands.
But all roads do not lead to Sydney. We are Australian citizens living in a growing border region. Our families, tourist market, business, education and export opportunities plus a modern health system lie over the border.
Section 92 of the Australian Constitutional guarantees unrestricted "intercourse between the states". The question must now be " rail north- why not?
After 30 years suffering the crippling impact of a poor decision to take trains off the Great North line, why are we being made to endure unending transport poverty in our region?
Why is the coast, and the southern border more entitled that us? Covid has changed "everything" and hastened the need for transport equity in the regions.
So let's get on with it. Reinstate a cross border rail connection on the existing corridor between Armidale and the border then work with Queensland to build a medium fast standard gauge service to Brisbane and to Queensland's excellent sea and air ports.
While we are at it, let's take a leaf out of Parramatta's book and build side by side cycle trails to complement the modern cross border rail service we need and deserve.
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