A potential freight and passenger rail line could connect Canberra to the Port of Eden after the NSW Government announced it will commit $1 million towards a feasibility study into the project.
The study will consider reinstating the currently non-operational rail line between Queanbeyan and Bombala, including the development of new tracks to extend the line to Canberra Airport as well as the Port of Eden.
Services on the Canberra to Bombala rail line were suspended 30 years ago, though sections have been briefly opened for heritage or tourism operations. The line is currently in un-trafficable condition due to age and its disuse leading to rail breakage, sleeper degradation and timber bridge deterioration.
The rail has been lifted at several locations to enable the removal of level crossings and realignment of the Monaro Highway.
The Bombala line is 304 kilometres long, commencing from the Australian Rail Track Corporation/Country Regional Network boundary at Joppa Junction, the line is operational at 20.25 tonne axle load to Queanbeyan and then to Canberra. Beyond Bombala, no rail line exists, meaning the study will need to identify potential corridor extensions through to the Port of Eden.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the rail line could potentially provide a new link from Canberra to the Port of Eden as a global gateway for passengers and trade and the home of one of the largest fishing fleets in NSW.
“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,” Ms Berejiklian said.
State Member for Monaro John 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.
Member for Bega Andrew 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.