Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Deputy Premier, Minister for Regional NSW and Member for Monaro John Barilaro, and Transport Minister and Member for Bega Andrew Constance made the announcement in the southern NSW town of Cooma today.
Ms Berejiklian said 30 years after the suspension of services, the study would examine re-opening the Canberra to Bombala rail line, as well as the extension of the line to the Port of Eden, which is currently undergoing a major redevelopment.
“This rail line could potentially provide a new link from Canberra, as a global gateway for passengers and trade, to the Port of Eden, an emerging cruise destination and home to one of the largest fishing fleets in NSW,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“As a government we have worked hard to put ourselves in the financial position where we can invest heavily in major infrastructure projects that transform the way we live and get around, and I want to ensure that investment extends right to the borders of NSW, not just the borders of metropolitan Sydney,” she said.
Mr Barilaro said the announcement is a tip of the hat to our forefathers who hand-built the line between the 1880s and the 1920s, based on a vision of future development in southern NSW.
“This rail line has long been a dream for our local communities, so I’m pleased we are able to make this important first step today,” Mr Barilaro said.
“I believe the project has the ability to breathe new life into our southern communities by opening up freight and tourism opportunities, which is why I look forward to the results of the study,” he said.
The study will consider reinstating the currently non-operational rail line between Queanbeyan and Bombala, plus the development of new tracks to extend the line to Canberra Airport, as well as the Port of Eden.
Mr Constance said the investigation would comprise a detailed engineering study, finalise a preferred route, and confirm detailed construction cost estimates.
“By linking the line to the Port of Eden, the project has the potential to connect Queanbeyan and Canberra to the coast, at a location that experts say rivals Sydney Harbour for depth and access,” Mr Constance said.
“The vision for the South East and Tablelands is one of a borderless region, in Australia’s most geographically diverse natural environment, with the nation’s capital at its heart, and a thriving cruise ship terminal on the coast, so opening up a rail corridor has the potential to link all of that together,” he said.
The Bombala line is 304km long. Commencing from the Australian Rail Track Corporation/Country Regional Network boundary at Joppa Junction (near Goulburn) the line is operational at 20.25 Tonne Axle Load to Queanbeyan and on to Canberra.
The line to Bombala via Cooma was progressively closed between 1986 and 1990. Sections have briefly re-opened for heritage/tourist operations, however, the line is currently in un-trafficable condition as its age and disused status has led to rail breakage, sleeper degradation and timber bridge deterioration.
Additionally the rail has been lifted at several locations to enable the removal of level crossings and realignment of the Monaro Highway. Beyond Bombala, no rail line has ever existed, so this study needs to identify potential corridor extensions through to the Port of Eden.